ArtSciConverge at Sagehen Creek Field Station
Artists have participated since 2011 in the ArtSciConverge residency program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Truckee, California. Established in 1951 by zoologist and National Academy of Sciences member A. Starker Leopold and aquatic insect specialist Paul “Doc” Needham as part of the University of California’s first wildlife and fisheries program, the field station’s scientific research includes studying how streams shape the land. The station’s ArtSciConverge program has hosted dozens of projects that combine art and science in pursuit of basic discovery, community connection, and social transformation.
The artists’ residencies are place-based, meaning that they are concerned not only with art itself as a way of exploring intellectual, philosophical, and aesthetic issues, but also with how art functions and is understood in relationship to a specific location and time. Many of the works are artifacts from performance pieces at the field station.
The findings of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s consensus study report, Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century (2014), about the social effectiveness of field stations, have shaped the ArtSciConverge program. The report noted that although the stations produced good science, they were nonetheless losing funding because they did not connect robustly with the public. Just as the science at the Sagehen station has broadened to include research about the threat of climate change to the future of the planet, so the ArtSciConverge program has grown to include regional exhibitions and public programs. It has successfully forged an internationally admired connection between scientific research and public awareness, action, and policy.
Although planned for April 1 to October 30, 2020, the National Academy of Sciences did not host a physical exhibition about the ArtSciConverge program. Along with other institutions and public spaces around the world, the NAS building closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 16, 2020, a week before the scheduled installation date. An online catalog documents the writing and artwork for the exhibition, and the residency was discussed at the August 20, 2020, DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous. You can find a recording of the conversation at https://www.youtube.com/CPNAS and access the catalog at https://www.cpnas.org.