Catawba professors build chemistry and art connections in North Dakota

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 6, 2015

Catawba College News Service

Visual art and chemistry will collide at Catawba College next spring in Aesthetic Alchemy, a special honors course offered by professors Dr. Carol Anne Miderski and Professor Ashley Pierce.

The course will explore the connection between chemistry and art with a focus on the tactile arts of the American Southwest. They will incorporate chemistry in context throughout course lecture and discussion as well as through the hands-on lab sections of the course. They plan to incorporate workshop materials directly and indirectly as they continue developing and refining the course over the coming months.

Students also present finished projects for public viewing in an Aesthetic Alchemy art exhibition toward the close of the spring semester.

In order to prepare for the class, Miderski and Pierce attended a workshop last week at Bismarck State College in Bismarck, N.D.

The workshop was made possible through Chemistry Collaborations, Workshops and Communities of Scholars, as well as through a National Science Foundation grant. These workshops are offered throughout the nation on a variety of niche chemistry topics.

The Bismark State College has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years, allowing ample classroom space and chemistry lab accommodations for a variety of workshop participants. Participants included organic chemists, inorganic chemists, physics professors, two analytical chemists, a printmaker, an art historian and three general art professors.

The workshop included lots of hands-on activities applicable to chemistry and visual art students at Catawba.

“It was wonderful to have an opportunity to network with artists and scientists to share teaching methods and see how modern technologies can help us to learn about making, examining and preserving works of art,” Miderski said.

“The workshop was rigorous but helpful and information dense,” Pierce said, adding that she “appreciated the range of teaching styles within a wide variety of highly specific areas of expertise.”

Continuing education for educators is, she believes, among the very best investments, as it is an investment not just in the individual but also in many future generations of students and citizens.