All summer, visitors to the Davis Art Center are exploring momentum and the creative explosion that happens when art meets science.
This year’s Discovery Art Program, “Momentum: Art in Action/Creativity in Motion,” investigates physical and social momentum and encourages visitors to think about why things move and how motion can make art.
Visitors are invited to play with things that walk, fly, roll, swing, slide and dance. The exhibit is continually evolving as gallery visitors design machines, make mobiles, play with a giant 10-foot spirograph on loan from the UC Davis Physics Club and contribute their own artwork and ideas to the gallery walls.
Carrie Ziser, a recent Discovery Art visitor, said it “stretches the definition of art and pushes the boundaries of what one typically finds in galleries and museums.”
The exhibit also asks community members to think about momentum in culture and society.
“We challenge you to consider how small changes in your everyday life can lead to big impacts, and to create momentum around something you believe in,” explains Rachel Hartsough, program director and creative of the Discovery Art Program. “The exhibit addresses our relationships with creativity and action as a physical and social force; examining things that move us — both literally and figuratively.
“We hope that participants will be inspired to think about how we can harness the power of creative energy in our own community to impact social change. “
With this hands-on, exploratory exhibit, the Davis Art Center is at the forefront of a national dialogue in education policy that is itself gaining momentum: the inclusion of art and design in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. In an informal setting designed to engage community members of all ages, the Discovery Art Program is championing the concept of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education.
“We are taking the discourse out of the realm of theory and putting it into a creative practical context, because we believe that, as astronaut Mae Jamison stated, art and science are ‘manifestations of the same thing. They are avatars of human creativity,’ ” an Art Center spokeswoman says.
Highlights of the exhibit include:
* “Off the Grid”: The collaborative, community art installation is back this summer by popular demand. Everyone is invited to recreate one section of an oversized image that will come together and transform into a unique work of art during the course of the show. This year, the Art Center is collaborating with a regional arts group (kept secret until the final artwork is revealed) to create an image that explores how human bodies generate momentum in art.
More than 150 people contributed to last year’s “Off the Grid” project, which produced a giant honeybee image. The artwork was recently acquired by the California Energy Commission and now hangs in its Sacramento office.
Grid kits are limited — there are 132 in total — and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. They may be picked up during regular hours at the Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.
* Kinetic playground: Visitors can try their hand at a giant drawing machine made from upcycled bicycle parts, make some music with their friends or design their own art-making machine and share it as part of this wall-mounted exhibit. Swing, crank and spin to discover how wheels, gears, air and bells can make art.
As visitors play on the kinetic playground, their movements leave giant colorful concentric circles on the gallery walls, documenting their own actions, and contributing to a collaborative work of art that will deepen and expand as the summer progresses, leaving a visual imprint of the cumulative visitor experience.
* Nuts & Bolts: On the Nuts & Bolts wall, the community is invited to contribute momentum-themed photography, drawings or language in the form of poetry, quotes or words. These manifestations of creative thought will become part of a large image map that will slowly grow throughout the summer, documenting the progression of a shared idea, and providing the inspiration for “Moving Parts,” a dynamic collaborative mural.
* “Moving Parts”: Local artists Hartsough, Margo Mullen, Mark Rivera and Camille Shea-Lichter are painting “Moving Parts” in a relay, each painter adding images and layering ideas onto the mural one after the other (and sometimes in tandem). The artists are drawing inspiration from ideas and images contributed by the community to create a large-scale painting.
They will be working in the gallery on most Mondays and Tuesdays throughout August, and community members are invited in to watch the artists at work.
The large-scale mural created as part of last year’s Cross-Pollination exhibit was recently displayed at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis and at Genentech in Vacaville as part of a monthlong celebration of diversity, sustainability and art.
* Wings, Wheels & Widgets: In this exhibit, visitors can conjure their inner inventor. Alexander Calder and Rube Goldberg inspire this collection of hands-on action stations where guests can experiment with physics and design by creating a dynamic mobile or chain reaction from recycled materials and small found objects.
Baskets of dominoes, springs, small bouncy balls, tubes, cars, blocks, marbles, used bike parts and more will encourage visitors to let their designs, imaginations and engineering skills go wild.
* “Poetry on the Move”: Momentum doesn’t stop at the door of the Art Center. Look for “Poetry on the Move” in store windows throughout downtown Davis. Curated by local poet Mimi Kusch, “Poetry on the Move” is a collection of poems loosely related to the theme of momentum. The poems are meant to give people the opportunity to pause and reflect for a moment as they walk downtown and carry that reflection with them as they move on in their daily lives.
* “Bike Fun”: Also downtown, check out the progress of the Bike Fun mural on the corner of Third and F streets. Created by Discovery Art partner Danielle Fodor of Paint Bike Fun, the community mural is the first about bikes in Davis.
A Bike Fun Fest is planned from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 17, to commemorate completion of the mural. Creative activities will celebrate bikes, bike art and this form of safe and fun transportation that defines the Davis community.
Learn more about the summerlong “Momentum” program online at www.davisartcenter.org/discoveryart.