Exploratorium: Home

Meet Some Staff Artists

Meet Some Staff Artists

Charles Sowers

An artist and exhibit developer, Charles has been making thought-provoking, beautiful, and sometimes whimsical experiences for Exploratorium visitors since 1998. His work presents actual physical phenomena—often of striking visual beauty—that draw people into a careful noticing and interaction. He seeks to provoke a sense of delight and wonder and reward extended observation. Frequently this involves developing an apparatus to recreate or highlight some natural phenomenon. Charles frequently collaborates with scientists to recreate lab experiments. Through these collaborations, he has discovered a strong correlation between his process and that of the scientific experimentalist. Both build apparatuses—scientists to probe the limits of their collective understanding and Charles to probe the boundaries of beauty, delight, and wonder.

Nicole Catrett

An exhibit developer at the Exploratorium since 2007, Nicole can usually be found tinkering in the Tinkering Studio, where she might be sewing, welding, or making a cardboard bearskin rug. Nicole studied sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design, and she has made many delightful contraptions for visitors to play with at the Exploratorium. Her work includes a musical bench that can be played by holding hands or kissing, a stroboscopic camera inspired by French scientist and photographer Étienne-Jules Marey, and a telescope that makes everything look like a little toy. She has been featured in MAKE magazine and has collaborated with English engineer and artist Tim Hunkin.

Wayne Grim

Wayne’s focus is on composing for small ensembles, making field recordings, designing multimedia works, and developing a generative compositional language that explores temporal extremes. He is the curator for Resonance, a new Exploratorium music series, and creates sound installations and composes sound tracks and other pieces for the museum for events including After Dark, exhibits, the Science in the City webcast series, and more. In 2012, he created a live audio rendering of the annular eclipse using camera feed, and, in 2011, a live sonification of the Transit of Venus using live telescope feed. He has also created ringtones using Exploratorium exhibits and ephemera, and has made recordings of unusual instruments. Wayne has performed and collaborated with musicians in the United States, Germany, Japan, and Indonesia.

David Barker

David Barker is art director for the Exploratorium’s Institutional Media department, and has been around the museum since 1980. With a background in art and science, David works in all facets of the museum. He creates banners, Web content, graphics, publications, posters, and multimedia. He also has designed and produced numerous exhibits and exhibitions for the Exploratorium, and created content and illustrations for the museum’s award-winning Science of Baseball website. He’s a self-professed baseball nut and is currently working with the San Francisco Giants to promote Science of Baseball at the ballpark, in Giants Magazine, and in appearances, workshops, and activities. His current interests include model rocketry, softball, and trying to keep up with a two-year-old rescue greyhound.

Liz Keim

Liz Keim, Director of Cinema Arts and Senior Curator, initiated the Exploratorium’s Cinema Arts Program and film collection in 1982 and has since worked to integrate the visions of independent media artists into museum programming, public exhibition, and education. Under her direction, the Cinema Arts Program has expanded to include outdoor screenings, filmmaker residencies, installations, and workshops. She guest lectures, has served on many local film juries, participates in symposiums nationwide, and has curated cinema programs internationally. Liz studied with Edith Kramer, former director of the Pacific Film Archive, and Robert Frank, the noted photographer and cinematographer. She is published in Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theaters, a collection of literary essays on the city’s thriving cinema culture. On occasion Liz co-teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of San Francisco and lectures at various campuses around the San Francisco Bay Area. Her film In the Red (co-directed by Karen Merchant) has screened internationally.

Denise King

Denise has been an exhibit developer at the Exploratorium since 2001. A keen observer of the natural world, she has studied subjects ranging from botany and ecology to marine biology, microbiology, and evolution. She has developed many biology exhibits at the Exploratorium including Glass Settling Plate, Mosquito Magnet, Leaves That Never Get Wet, and Algae Chandelier, and has redesigned some old favorites such as Chick Embryo and Mimosa House. She has also produced exhibits such as All Eyes on Me and Mood Lighting, which highlight her ability to design exhibits that don't have wet and squishy things in them. Before setting anchor at the Exploratorium, Denise worked as a field biologist and a lecturer at SF State, and she once got to shoot on location with English broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough in the Mohave Desert. 

Walter Kitundu

Walter Kitundu is a visual artist, instrument builder, photographer, and composer. He works as a multimedia artist in the Tinkering Studio, where he helps design and build environments for learning, develops and facilitates activities, and works as a photographer and graphic designer. He has created hand-built record players powered by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. Walter has performed and been in residence at art centers and science museums worldwide. He has performed with the renowned Kronos Quartet, bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, the electronic music duo Matmos, and the legendary Marshall Allen in venues from Carnegie Hall to a high school library in Egilstaadir, Iceland. In 2008, Walter became a MacArthur Fellow.

Shawn Lani

Shawn Lani is a senior artist and curator of the Exploratorium’s Outdoor Gallery and other outdoor works. His Outdoor team is creating more than twenty-five site-specific installations and commissioning a wide range of artists to help enrich and enliven the museum’s new home at Pier 15. In addition to their work at the piers, the Outdoor team is actively developing and installing public works throughout the Bay Area. As principal investigator for the NSF-funded project Ciencia Publica, Shawn is leading the development of portable and public interactions in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, working in partnership with San Francisco city planners and advocates for urban improvements. Shawn has also created pieces for the NSF-funded Outdoor Exploratorium: Experiments in Noticing. The project team installed twenty outdoor pieces at Fort Mason, a unique urban national park in San Francisco. In addition, as a member of the NOAA/Exploratorium Vision Council, Shawn advocates for artworks that create intimate experiences with broad implications.

An active public artist, Shawn has participated in a number of national and international artist-in-residencies. His creations are installed in more than fifty museums worldwide, and he is the recipient of a National American Institute of Architects award for the monumental LIGO Wind Wall installation in Livingston, Louisiana.

Shawn has a BA in English/Creative Writing & Art History from the University of California at Davis, and an MA in Museum Studies (Design and Education) from John F. Kennedy University.

Marina McDougall

Marina McDougall directs the new Center for Art & Inquiry, an R&D center for the arts within the larger learning laboratory of the Exploratorium. She also oversees our new Over the Water program. Marina was the first curator of art and design at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and co-founded the Studio for Urban Projects. She has been a visiting curator at the MIT Media Lab, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Oakland Museum of California. As a curator working at the intersection of art and science, nature and culture, Marina has twenty years' experience organizing exhibitions and public programs, and started her career as a curator in the Exploratorium Cinema Arts Program. She teaches as an adjunct professor in the graduate Curatorial Practice Program at California College of the Arts.

Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan is the art director for the Exhibit Environment and head of the EE Design department with a staff of five artists and designers. He and his staff work with artists, exhibit developers, writers, and scientists to create meaningful environments and clear signage and labels for the hundreds of exhibits on the museum floor. Before joining the Exploratorium, Mark received his undergraduate degree in San Diego in Filmmaking/Photography/Architecture and an MFA in Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute. He has a long history of working in various fields of art, film, and design: as a film editor's apprentice, at an Armed Forces TV station in Seoul, Korea, as art director at a TV station, as an animator at a production company, as graphic designer for an art school, film teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute, teacher of design for artists at the Center for Experimental and Interdisciplinary Arts at San Francisco State University, and as a package and book designer. Since joining the Exploratorium in 1986, Mark has designed signage, posters, books, and publications, including the award-winning and widely-loved Exploratorium Quarterly. He has also been art director and designed many exhibitions for the museum, including Revealing Bodies, awarded Best Museum Exhibition by the American Association of Museums in the year 2000, and exhibitions that have traveled the world. Mark is also a practicing artist with works in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, DC. His films have been shown at locations in the Unkted States, Europe, and Japan. Currently, Mark is designing and building a handmade house with his wife, Robyn Higdon, on a lovely piece of land in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

 

Peter Richards

Peter Richards is a senior artist emeritus at the Exploratorium. He worked with Exploratorium founder Frank Oppenheimer to set up arts programming and served as arts program director through 1998. He is best known for creating a wave-activated sound sculpture located on the San Francisco waterfront. Peter has permanent outdoor installations at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, and in several sites in California and Washington. He recently completed a major work for the Valley Metro Light Rail System in Phoenix, Arizona. He has taught at the Center for Experimental and Interdisciplinary Arts at San Francisco State University, Ecole d’Art Aix en Provence, at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Stanford University. He is a cofounder of McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was a research fellow at the Studio for Creative Inquiry, Carnegie Mellon University. He is past chair of the Alliance of Artist Communities Board of Trustees. Currently, he’s collaborating with Sue Richards on several public art commissions. Peter received a BA in sculpture from Colorado College and an MFA in sculpture from the Rinehart School of Sculpture.

Susan Schwartzenberg

Susan Schwartzenberg is a senior artist at the Exploratorium, where she leads the development of the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery. She has been a curator, photographer, designer, and artist, and served as director of media for the museum. She has participated in many exhibit development and Web-based projects. Susan was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, the California College of Art, and Stanford University. As a photographer and visual artist, she has received numerous awards, and has taken part in residencies and exhibitions worldwide. She is known for her public art, including recent works at Stanford University and San Francisco’s McLaren Park.

Samuel Sharkey

Samuel Sharkey works in the Cinema Arts Program with Liz Keim, its founder and director. With her collaboration and guidance, Sam curates a variety of programs for the museum both inside the McBean Theatre as well as outside of traditional cinematic contexts on the museum floor and outdoors. His interest in film extends to its potential to engage audiences in thought, participation, and discussion. The sound and image may act as catalysts to other worlds or deeper investigations of our own. Sam’s passion extends outside of the Exploratorium’s walls to understanding and enacting the power of visual language and storytelling with audiences.

Amy Snyder

Amy Snyder is the senior photographer at the Exploratorium. Last fall she traveled with a media crew to Hawaii for the Never Lost: Polynesnia Navigation website. Her work has been published in numerous places including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Sunset magazine, Science magazine, and The Boston Globe. She has received numerous awards for her photographic work including being a selected artist for Sotheby’s Young International Artist Program. She has exhibited work nationally and internationally. Amy received a BA in German from the University of Michigan and an MFA in photography with highest distinction from the California College of Arts in Oakland, California, in 1995.

Jordan Stein

Jordan is an assistant curator with the Center for Art & Inquiry at the Exploratorium, where he develops exhibits and programs with artists-in-residence such as Lucky Dragons, Harrell Fletcher, and Meara O’Reilly. He is the curator of the ongoing Night (1947-2015) exhibition at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and operates the experimental exhibition and program space Will Brown in San Francisco. He is a two-time recipient of the Alternative Exposure Award from Southern Exposure and was a 2013 artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2005.

Phoebe Tooke

As senior videographer in the Moving Images department since 2011, Phoebe has produced and directed videos for a myriad of exhibition platforms at the Exploratorium including the awarding-winning web series “Science in the City.” Her personal films have screened all over the world, including at the Academy of Motion Pictures, the Pacific Film Archive, the Telluride Film Festival, Slamdance, International Documentary Association’s Documentary Showcase, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. One of Phoebe’s recent films, “Circles of Confusion,” received a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and received a Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco Film Society. She also teaches filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University. She received her MFA in Film Production at San Francisco State University in 2008.

Pamela Winfrey

Pamela Winfrey is a senior artist and curator for the West Gallery, an innovative space that explores human phenomena such as thinking, feeling, and social interactions. A member of the Exploratorium staff since 1979, Pam has held a variety of positions including Explainer, director of the performing arts program, and acting director for the arts. She also ran the Tactile Dome and started the Volunteer Program. Over the years, she has curated numerous performance series, exhibitions, artist residencies, and gallery installations.

Pam has served on many panels, including the Interactive Arts Panel for Ars Electronica, and, in 2009, she was the lead curatorial consultant for emerging art forms for Creative Capital. She is also a playwright and performer, specializing in writing absurd plays for a thinking audience. She is currently working with the New Musical Theater of San Francisco. Pam has a bachelor’s degree in theater and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary arts.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough is an exhibit developer who has created and designed a number of immersive environments and tabletop exhibits for the Listen and Geometry Playground collections. For Geometry Playground, she developed the wood Rotating Through Shapes cubes and tunnels, the Large Anamorphic Mirror Hopscotch, Distorted Drawing in Mirrors, Distorted Chair (with Diane Pfeiffer), and Conical Mirror. For Listen, she developed Outquiet Yourself, Sound Bite, Sonic Storytelling (with Tony Palermo and David Thorgerson), Hearing Health Kiosk (with H.E.A.R. founder Kathy Peck), and Sound Memories (with Sue Allen). Mary Elizabeth received her MFA from CCAC in 2002. She is a practicing visual artist and a musician.