Student art exhibit, auction showcases interdisciplinary creativity

Apr 25, 2016 | Applied and Natural Sciences, Engineering and Science, Liberal Arts, Research and Development

Faculty from Louisiana Tech University’s biological sciences and biomedical engineering programs teamed up with art faculty from the School of Design to provide students with a unique opportunity to use their talents to promote Louisiana Tech’s New Frontiers in Biomedical Research lecture series.
The apex of this interdisciplinary experience was the April 14 opening of an art exhibit at the Louisiana Tech Enterprise Center to showcase creative works of the 14 students taking part in the collaboration through Associate Art Professor Nick Bustamante’s ART 320 Digital Painting class.  The opening of the exhibit was followed by an action of the top student-created works that will help to support next year’s New Frontiers in Biomedical Research lecture series and the continuation of this unique opportunity for students.  The final project for the students in Bustamante’s course was to design the cover of next year’s lecture series promotional materials.
Visitors peruse digital artwork created by Louisiana Tech students during an exhibit and auction at the Enterprise Center.

Visitors peruse digital artwork created by Louisiana Tech students during an exhibit and auction at the Enterprise Center.

“The digital painting and illustration project resulted from the interdisciplinary collaboration of faculty from three different colleges,” said Dr. Gary Kennedy, dean of Louisiana Tech’s College of Applied and Natural Sciences.  “This collaboration gave students a unique opportunity that goes well beyond the typical classroom.  I found it highly rewarding to hear the students describe their work and to see their faces as the top four projects were auctioned off, averaging more than $1,000 each.  The exhibition showcases the efforts of both the students and the faculty.”
Throughout the course, Bustamante worked with Dr. Jamie Newman, the Scott Weathersby Endowed Professor in Zoology and Premedicine and an assistant professor in biological sciences, and Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, to help students create original cover art and imagery to be used in program advertising and gift presentations to the guest speakers.  Newman and Caldorera-Moore are the co-organizers of the New Frontiers in Biomedical Research lecture series that has grown into one of Louisiana Tech’s premier interdisciplinary programs.
Digital artwork designed by Almira Bradford for the New Frontiers in Biomedical Research Series.

Digital artwork designed by Almira Bradford for the New Frontiers in Biomedical Research Series.

The art exhibit at the Enterprise Center featured not just the final pieces, but also showcased the learning process as many students in the class had never used some of the digital design programs needed to create the art, prior to the course.  In just a few weeks and in working with Bustamante, the students became proficient and mastered many of the digital design techniques.  In the last half of the quarter, Newman and Caldorera-Moore worked with the students to illustrate four biomedical concepts: antibody-antigen interaction, cell signaling, circulation, and nanoparticle-based drug delivery.  Each of the students illustrated one of these concepts and the final pieces were judged by a multidisciplinary panel from around Louisiana Tech.
The top four images were auctioned to raise money to continue this program and aid students in the purchase of equipment that will help them pursue their career goals in digital painting and scientific illustration.  As a result of the class experience, Almira Bradford, who was the winner of the competition, plans to pursue a career where digital painting is her main medium.  The auction raised over $5,000 which will help maintain and grow the collaboration between the arts and sciences at Louisiana Tech.
“The digital design class was an excellent opportunity for the students and faculty from three distinct colleges to work collaboratively together,” said Dr. Don Kaczvinsky, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Louisiana Tech.  “Our art students gained a greater appreciation of the science that went into their paintings and the new possibilities for art in the digital age.
“The students also learned to work with clients, meet deadlines and work across disciplines in a team effort.  I believe the class exemplifies the quality and interdisciplinary nature of the educational experience at the university.  I really enjoyed the exhibition and I look forward to developing similar classes in the future.”
The New Frontiers in Biomedical Research lecture series is a year-long seminar series that brings internationally recognized biomedical researchers to Louisiana Tech to interact with students, faculty and administrators. These interactions with world-class scientists have led to admission of Louisiana Tech students into competitive summer programs and graduate programs, created new collaborations for faculty, generated an expanding network of contacts for all of those who participate, and introduced Louisiana Tech to a number of research faculty across the country.