I work in the engineering school here at U.Va. My office faces a lobby-type area just outside the main computer lab for undergrads. That space has blank walls. We recently commandeered it and opened up an art gallery. The painting above is one of four currently hanging in this first installment. I make note of the exhibit here, at The World’s Fair, because it seems entirely in keeping with the ethos of this blog, where in our best days we cross the so-called boundaries between scientific, artistic, and political worlds.
U.Va.’s engineering school helps students recognize the broader cultural character of their work, the creative, imaginative, and innovative aspects that drive all solid engineering practice. Those elements–creativity, imagination, innovation–are also descriptions of an artistic worldview. That shouldn’t be surprising since art and engineering have always been intimately connected intellectual efforts. Linguistically speaking, craftwork, for example, has both a strong technical history and an aesthetic one. (“Technology” itself is a very modern word, used in its current for more little more than a century at best.) Both fundamentally deal with imagining and representing the world in new ways; both are about the combination of hands, minds, and materials. In our culture, though, I suppose the public perception of engineering tends toward the technical and quantitative and away from the artistic and aesthetic. Basically then, I’m hoping that making the engineering school a host of artwork can help facilitate the image that art and engineering are of a piece.
We started modestly. Future installations will likely have more than four paintings, likely include photography–one member of our curatorial committee, Dr. Kent Wayland, suggests a showing of Burtynsky-like photos of industrial landscapes–and certainly become a bit more formalized in terms of signage, lighting, and artist’s information.
If you’re ever in town, swing on by.
If you have suggestions for future exhibits, whether or not you are in town, let me know.