The University’s interdisciplinary Visual Integration of Science Through Art (VISTA) Center will have a year-long exhibit at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in Baton Rouge, Aug. 13, 2022, through July 31, 2023.
The exhibit, “Illustrations in Health,” will feature roughly 60 pieces by 50 Tech undergraduates who have been part of the VISTA Center since its creation seven years ago. The exhibit’s aim is to engage the audience in understanding the impact of illustrations on health sciences and medicine. It will include illustrations of physical, mental, and community health, biomedical research, and community engagement.
Tech and others will host events at the museum, and educational programming will be available for K-12 school visits and guest speakers throughout the year.
Tracey Barhorst, the Museum’s curator, said “Illustrations in Health” will “delve into the often-overlooked work of medical illustrators. Medical illustrations provide insight into anatomical and physiological characteristics that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to see. Illustrations help launch new scientific discoveries and advance further knowledge about syndromes, diseases, viruses, and general health.
“In a partnership with Tech’s VISTA Center,” she said, “LASM will mount an exhibition which explores the visual representations of the diseases, everyday occurrences, and lifesaving research that affects the medical health of the members of our community.”
An intentional blending of science and art, VISTA began as a collaboration between the Tech faculty of Nick Bustamante (art), Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore (biomedical engineering), and Dr. Jamie Newman (biology) as they thought through illustrations for the presentation of a 2014-15 research publication. From that simple beginning, the young program grew to include more courses, a minor in Pre-Medical Illustration (2017), a minor in Scientific Visualization (2018), and the actual VISTA Center, which Bustamante directs and Newman co-directs, where faculty from art, science, and engineering team to offer students a unique opportunity to communicate science, discovery, and medicine through art.
In the past seven years, more than 150 art majors and nearly 70 STEM majors have participated in VISTA-related courses and community activity.
“I love to see these kinds of innovative and impactful programs emerge from the collaborative efforts of our faculty members,” Tech President Dr. Les Guice said. “Besides resulting in new courses and minors, this interdisciplinary collaboration between the colleges of Applied and Natural Sciences (School of Biological Sciences), Liberal Arts (Studio Art & Graphic Design), and Engineering and Science (Biomedical Engineering) has given our students the opportunities to work with more than a dozen local, national, and international partners, and students have created artwork for published children’s books, health care posters, research publications, and graphical abstracts.”
“The collaboration between art and science like this is unique, and as far as we know, there is not another undergraduate program quite like ours and certainly not one in Louisiana or in the South,” Newman said. “Students who pursue the minor in Pre-Medical Illustration will meet the requirements for application to graduate programs to become a professional medical illustrator. The minor in Scientific Visualization provides more freedom for a student to explore areas of art and science that they are passionate about.”
In early 2020 when the Museum — for the first time in at least 20 years — extended an open call for exhibition opportunities, VISTA put in its application, went through a screening and interview process, and was ultimately selected in what Bustamante, a veteran of how the art world works, knows is an “incredibly competitive process,” he said. “Being selected is a huge honor that reflects the professional quality of work that our undergraduates are creating.”
“People will find it fascinating to learn about how these medical illustrations were created and shared,” said Beth Welch, a 2015 Tech BFA graduate from Monroe who was recently promoted from exhibits coordinator to LASM’s Interim Assistant Curator. “We’re very excited to share their story and how it has changed over the years.”
Bustamante and Newman won’t know precisely how many works of art and creators will be represented until they have the show staged, but a preview of the space in March when Newman was in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana STEM Summit left her “overwhelmed by the opportunity.”
“With the space we are being given,” she said, “we have an amazing opportunity to showcase what students who come to Louisiana Tech can be a part of.”
VISTA will host an RSVP-only reception “to celebrate the creativity and innovation of the students” in the program at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the Museum, 100 S. River Road, Baton Rouge. For more information and to RSVP, call 318.257.4287.