“There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why, I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” – Robert F. Kennedy
Dayton, with international leadership in a number of technology sectors, its active arts community and a century-old reputation for innovation is well-positioned to advance our community’s interests by applying good old Dayton ingenuity to the intersection of technology and art.
It was with this in mind that we sat down late last year to put together a TECH-ARTS pilot project to test that premise. What could happen when you bring together a group of eight Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) engineers and scientists and seven local artists—a choreographer, a composer, a sculptor, a video artist, a mobile maker, mixed-media artist and a cross-platform installation artist—to take on a problem confronting AFRL researchers?
Our long-term objective is twofold:
- How can the mental model and tools that artists use lead to new approaches to addressing current and long-term technology challenges?
- How can creating art in Dayton be transformed by giving local, national and international artists access to Dayton-based technology and engineers?
This intense six-week project, facilitated by the IDEA Lab at the Wright Brothers Institute included visits to the Dayton Art Institute and a number of Air Force research labs as a way to start acquainting and absorbing each other’s environments. Begun with some trepidation from both groups, once the brainstorming started, it was quickly discovered that engineers and artists have much to offer and much to gain by collaborating.
If you are in the sciences or tech-sector, an artist, or just interested in the mash-up of art and technology, please join us for a collaborative conversation. This is the first of what we plan to be a monthly gathering, the fourth Tuesday of the month. Tuesday, May 24, 4:30 – 6:00. IDCAST, 711 East Monument Avenue #100. RSVP to email@example.com
For the engineers and scientists, they found the TECH-ARTS exchange went far beyond the tackling of a complex technology concept. As researchers who have sat through hundreds of presentations from thousands of engineers, the insightful and probing questions from the ARTS group was in part a direct challenge to how they approach problems. In the end, they came away with a new and welcome appreciation for the power of vastly different perspectives–palpable value brought to bear on the endless endeavor called the pursuit of understanding and innovation.
The artists were equally enthused by the possibilities coming out of the pilot effort. Artist Rodney Veal took this away, “To see the artists, engineers and scientists breaking into groups and energetically discussing theories and ideas from our individual practices and searching for commonality and ways to embrace this energized and invigorating environment was mind blowing. I can only imagine what comes next.”
A specific example of how the TECH-ARTS brain trust will be working together is to advance long-term understanding of Information Portrayal by looking at how artists and researchers each approach the concept. Information Portrayal is of serious concern to those responsible for providing accurate and timely data to our military personnel.
Through the unusual collaboration of artists with engineers/scientists—producing breakthroughs in science and art—we can lift our region up in unforeseen ways. Using the arts to highlight our technology and research sectors can only lead to more high-tech companies, from start-ups to those well-established, considering a future in the Dayton region. Creating work that attracts the attention of the international art world can only lead to Dayton entering the consideration-set as a viable living/working alternative for the creative class. And what better way to significantly impact our educational sector, business attraction/retention and create a tourism industry than through building an internationally-recognized community of TECH-ARTS innovation.
In the coming months, the Wright Brothers Institute will be initiating a series of TECH-ARTS gatherings to see if we cannot foment more activity in this area. We invite the region’s tech-sector companies and engineering departments, along with leading institutions like the Dayton Development Coalition, the Engineer’s Club, UDRI and WSURI to get behind this effort by joining us in conversation and collaboration with local artists.
Our interest in bringing together the TECH-ARTS group originated with the notion that connecting two primary assets – Dayton’s strong art and technology communities – could impact the development of a renaissance of imagination and innovation in our struggling region. After this initial TECH-ARTS pilot project, we are more convinced than ever that the collaboration of engineers and artists is where the best possible future lies not just for the Dayton area, but for those served by that which is produced here. Let’s not let this opportunity slip through our hands.
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