In 2014, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave Vassar a $750,000 grant to develop the Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD). The grant is multifaceted in nature, providing for visiting artists and residences, summer student projects, multidisciplinary course development and many events throughout the year.
This past summer, CAAD sponsored three multi-arts collectives, with students collaborating on projects bridging art, science, philosophy and psychology.
The groups have started presenting their projects this semester, starting with the Mug installation called “You’re Data,” an exploration of the connection between science and art. Next came Create and Control’s interactive theatre piece “In the Case of a Person.” Up next is “Seeing Shadows, Hearing Echoes,” an immersive experience based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, premiering Oct. 3 through 7.
One of the first big CAAD events of the year, coming up on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, is COSTA COMPAGNIE’s multimedia “Conversion/After Afghanistan.” In collaboration with Vassar dancers and Posse veterans, it examines the impact of NATO forces leaving Afghanistan.
CAAD provides the Vassar campus with a wealth of thought-provoking arts events, and they have started this year off with a bang. On Sept. 12 to 14 from 5 to 9 p.m., the group Do You Hear What I Hear presented “You’re Data,” a multi-media installation in the Mug. The research project and artistic science exhibition was presented by Elizabeth Boyce-Jacino ’18, Maya Enriquez ’17, Gabrielle Miranda ’18 and Conor Flanagan ’17. With a mix of cognitive science, creative writing and art majors involved in the exhibit, strong interdisciplinary connections between arts and science were present as a representation of a scientific phenomenon was made.
The room was dim, with light focused on a row of “patients,” a row of painted styrofoam heads and their “brain waves,” which was a yarn creation that represented the brain waves of the patients. There were two projections, one with a series of short stories written in yellow on a black backdrop and the other showing lips making a “bah” or “fah” sound. An audio of surveys was being played in the background, as well as a slow and somewhat eerie metronome. A trail of printed Facebook messages were lined up on the floor for the audience to step over, portraying the “communication barriers that had to be overcome,” according to Enriquez.
Through brain wave scans, Facebook surveys, a collection of short stories published online and a live survey at the installation, the group was able to investigate broad questions such as “Is there a divide historically between art and science?” and “Will science save us?” As Enriquez summed up, “Art and science are interactive. Lots of people feel like science and art aren’t accessible, and we felt that making it interactive would make it more memorable.”