A conversation with Samantha Younghans-Haug, Program Director at University of California Irvine Beall Center for Art + Technology.
Interactive Art that uses different forms of science and technology to engage the senses; collaborations among artists, scientists and technologists to spark new ideas and discoveries….
I had the opportunity for a Q&A with Samantha Younghans-Haug, Program Director at the Beall Center for Art + Technology.
1- Can you tell me a little about the UCI Beall Center and what you do at the UCI Beall Center?
The Beall Center promotes new forms of creative expression by: exhibiting art that uses different forms of science and technology to engage the senses; building innovative scholarly relationships and community collaborations between artists, scientists and technologists; encouraging research and development of art forms that can affect the future; reintroducing artistic and creative thinking into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) integrated learning in K-12 to Higher Education.I am the programs director at the Beall Center, and really handle just about anything and everything that comes my way – from developing & collaborating on new programs such as our new middle and high school Expressive Robotics Camp, and putting on events such as Family Days, lectures, workshops & openings, to figuring out how to trouble-shoot technology issues, working with exhibition installers and artists, training docents, editing exhibition catalogs, writing grants and putting together marketing materials both printed and online, writing press releases, and of course managing all the day to day business that happens. I work closely with and have learned a lot from my colleague and friend David Familian who is the curator and Artistic Director of the Beall. I am also involved in STEAM education initiatives and work with individuals on a county and national level, and am a contributor to the developments around the OC Mini Maker Faire.
2- What inspired you to start the Beall Center?
The Beall Center first opened its doors in 2000, years before I began which was in 2006. The Beall Center received its initial support from the Rockwell Corporation in honor of retired chairman Don Beall and his wife, Joan, the core idea being to merge their lifelong passions – technology, business and the arts – in one place. Here is a link to learn more about Don Beall: http://merage.uci.edu/ResearchAndCenters/Beall/Meet-Don-Beall.aspx
3- What type of community programs and events do you have at the Beall Center?
Family Day is our most popular community event and is offered twice a year in conjunction with each exhibition. Typical Family Days provide demonstrations by local companies in manufacturing, programming, engineering, optics, arts and design. I try to bring together an eclectic grouping of individuals from around the community and from various colleges and universities. In addition I like to invite young adults (or individuals of any age) who are excited about something they’ve made to come and demonstrate or show off their work. We have an active student body involved in various clubs from DIY clubs and computer programming/hackers to poetry and music clubs, and it is always fun to have them participate in Family Day, when they are available. I also typically have a wonderful group of volunteers from the UCI school of Education participating, and of course our wonderful Beall Docent staff. I believe that Family Day presents a unique learning experience not only for our visitors, but also for our UCI students and participants. I’ve seen a lot of networking and new projects come out of Family Day.We also provide our new Expressive Robotics camp that emphasizes programming expressive & responsive movement, and we offer all levels of tours from elementary to college level to senior groups. Tours are sometimes matched with lectures and simple hands-on art and tech projects.
4- What type of exhibitions do you hold at the Beall Center? What makes an exhibition most interesting? Can you describe one of the past exhibitions that was most inspirational to you?
Every exhibit at the Beall is different and all are inspiring to me in many ways. Just check out the past exhibitions listed on our website. It really amazes me the works that people envision and produce. One of my favorite exhibits was Paul Vanouse’s “Evidence” (Feb 2013). The exhibit included his work titled “Latent Figure Protocol”, a performative biological media installation that used DNA samples to create emergent representational images. The installation was a live scientific experiment employing a reactive gel and electrical current that produced images that relate directly to the DNA samples used. The Docents and I would “perform” the experiments every 3 days throughout the exhibition, with each image slowly fading to nothing by day 3. Not having any personal experience with the sciences, it was really exciting working with this new art medium (DNA!). (http://beallcenter.uci.edu/exhibitions/evidence-works-paul-vanouse)The other exhibit that was really one of the most interesting and inspirational to me was “EX-I-09” (April 2009) by artist Shih Chieh Huang (CJ). I am interested in kinetic works (either interactive, responsive or…) that create new and unusual environments, and I am also very interested in the repurposing of materials – and this was CJ. Amazing, work! It made me want to go out and start making things. (http://beallcenter.uci.edu/exhibitions/ex-i-09)
5- How do you think the concept of Art + Technology has evolved in the community since the start of the Beall Center? How do you think better understanding of the connections between Art and Technology will help shape new forms of creations and disruptive technologies?
The Beall Center provides a unique space in our community to see the convergent works of collaborating artists and technologists. We hope that people come to the Beall, interact with the works & space, and leave imagining new things, and inspired to create and innovate. Being tucked away on a campus makes it hard for the community to discover the Beall, and so we have our challenges. I believe our community events help us tremendously to get the word out. We always ask that when people come to the Beall Center that they always come back with a new person and that person comes back with a new person, and so on and so on. A lot of our visitors arrive either by word of mouth or by chance discover or just stumble in lost on campus (those visitors are always fun). We would really like to be brighter on the radar of art & tech, and we believe that over the past few years this is happening more and more. We were recently awarded a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Successes like that help put us on the forefront.I believe that as our culture and society continues to evolve and change with or because of technology that it is even more important to stimulate imagination to advance creativity and innovation. There has been a big push for STEM education, and I believe that the arts in all its wonderful forms (fine arts, crafts, dance, music, design, prose & poetry, lyrics & language) must also be included and valued just as importantly, otherwise we will continue with the same paths. I believe using our imaginations to become creative causes us to care and causes us to change our way of thinking and then opens us up to so many possibilities. Arts+STEM or STEAM, or whatever anyone wants to call it is important in all its varied forms (individual disciplines, multi/inter/trans-disciplinary, etc.). I also believe that collaborations among artists, scientists and technologists bring about new ideas and discoveries. When people work together and combine their research and practices amazing things can happen. Often engineers think differently them artists, neither is better, but together they experience in different ways and can learn from one another. Okay, just getting a little too philosophical here…
6- Anything else you would like to add?
I didn’t come to this position at the Beall as an art and technology person. My background was twofold & separate – art and business. I’ve learned a lot being here, and I am extremely thankful for the many different people I’ve come to know and learn from over the years.