Paseo Pop Up works up some STEAM

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A basic element of success in today’s world, especially for youth, seems to be an increasingly broadening know-how in science, math and, especially, technology, which brings us around to another meaning for the word STEAM, this time as an acronym for a fairly-recent educational movement. STEAM also stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

When educator and researcher Georgette Yakman coined the term, she added an “A for Art” to the already existing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) acronym, which by the early 2000s was representative of a national call to action to get American students up to par with the rest of the world in the sciences. The result of STEM initiatives across the country has been an increasing emphasis on the sciences and math at all levels.

Thank goodness for forward-thinkers like Yakman who, very shortly after STEM became an educational buzzword, saw the need to put the arts “back into the scientific equation.”

Three similar local visionary artist-educators — Christina Sporrong, Andrea Polli and Agnes Chávez ─ will present their takes on STEM and STEAM, art and technology, and community and particle physics in a unique panel discussion titled “STEAM Frontiers: From New Mexico to the Edge of the Universe.” The event will take place Saturday (June 20) at David Anthony Fine Arts, 132 Kit Carson Road. The panel starts at 1 p.m., is free to the public. It will include visual presentations of each of the participants’ current projects, both as artists and as educators in the community.

Gallery owner David Mapes said in a written statement that the STEAM Frontiers program will be the first in a series of collaborative events that will be conducted with The Paseo at DAFA.

The Paseo was a large outdoor art exposition that opened the 2014 Taos Fall Arts Festival.

“This is a great occasion to showcase such esteemed artists and educators and to give the community the opportunity to learn about STEAM,” says Mapes. “I’m looking forward to hosting other such innovative programs.”

“Each one of us in our own way, with our own projects, addresses the STEM question,” says Chávez of the topics the panel will address. Chávez is associate director of The Paseo Outdoor Arts Exposition and founder of STEMarts Lab. “Everybody knows that to be a part of the 21st century, we have to be up to date with science and technology. But very often in that quest, people can forget the importance of bringing the arts into the equation. There is a real push for STEM. It is important, but if it is STEM at the expense of art, then it loses something very important.”

Chávez has been a well-known proponent of STEAM from the beginning. She began STEMarts Lab in 2009 as a way to connect students and professional artists through hands-on workshops around the themes of technology, science and art. Lately she has been working on putting those workshops on the web and last year she collaborated on her own projection art installation, X Trees, at Paseo 2014. Also at The Paseo, Chávez collaborated with 2014 Paseo poster artist Marcus Dorninger on a workshop/presentation titled “Projecting Particles.”

That student-collaborative installation, as well as X Trees and her past involvement in curriculum-building for the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) conference in Albuquerque, led to an invitation to participate in the 2015 Havana Biennial contemporary art consortium, where she presented “pARTicles: Merging Projection Art and Particle Physics” and also conducted “Projecting Particles” workshops with Cuban high school students.

On the heels of a two-week CERN internship (see Tempo, March 18, 2015) and with Dorninger, four University of New Mexico graduate students and a surprising new collaborator ─ Mexican CERN physicist Dr. Luis Roberto Flores Castillo (with the support of the Atlas Experiment at CERN) ─ making up the Havana team, Chávez was able to make connections last month not only between art and physics but between diverse cultures as well.

“He is one of the key people that worked on the discovery of the Higgs particle and he was very excited about the work that I was doing,” says Chávez of Castillo's involvement with the Havana trip.

 “I do virtual tours of CERN (in my workshops) because usually we don’t have the money to have a real live CERN physicist (visit) … there is no Internet in Havana so (the students) would have missed out on real contact with a physicist so (Castillo) offered to go in person. It was amazing. The students were mesmerized.”

Another panel participant for the June 20th event will be Christina Sporrong. Sporrong, a local blacksmith and acrobat, and collaborator Liz Neely will be speaking about the Taos Toolbox project, which is part of the nationwide “Maker’s Space” movement.

“The toolbox is a membership-based workspace where the community will have access to new technologies like 3D printing, Arduino, electronics and laser cutting as well as old world tools,” Sporrong said. “The ToolBox will act as an incubator for new ideas, and with the help of the tools available, can add some significant possibilities in economic development in the area.”

Sporrong’s “Caged Pulse Jets” was a featured exhibit at the 2014 Paseo.

Well-known artist Andrea Polli, associate professor of Art and Ecology and director of the Social Media Workgroup at the Center for Advanced Research Computing at UNM, will round out the panel. Polli calls herself “an artist working at the intersection of art, science and technology” and has been creating art using technology and media since 1999.

She has collaborated with NASA, the Goddard Institute Climate Research Group and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, among other organizations. Her installation “Rain” was featured on Taos Plaza for The Paseo 2014. Polli says that the focus of her Social Media Working Group is to “support and strengthen STEAM projects for New Mexico college, high school and middle school students and teachers.”

STEAM Frontiers is part of New Media New Mexico 2015, founded by Currents in Santa Fe. For more information, call David Mapes at (575) 751-0075.

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