Learning Studio
News Projects Collaborators Gallery

The Learning Studio serves as a collaborative laboratory for visiting artists, scholars, scientists, and educators. Through residencies, professional development workshops, and field research projects, the Studio offers a forum for wider community explorations in art, science, and technology.


Michael Brown

Michael Brown is a sculptor, designer and installation artist who has been creating artwork in San Francisco for more than 20 years. His large-scale public artworks include 3 sculptural clocks and a sculptural landscape. His interactive artworks are in the collections of several science museums, including The Exploratorium.

In addition to creating public artwork, Michael has been working with museums to design exhibits that focus on inspiring greater interaction with the visitors through the use of innovative and engaging exhibition techniques.

Recently, and in collaboration with the Learning Studio, Michael has convinced 22 artists, makers, and museum visitors to take apart and re-imagine the same mechanical chicken toy in an event called Mechanical Mischief: Twisted Toys. A gallery of the event can be found here.

Kristen Murray

Kristen Murray is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Architecture at the University of Minnesota's College of Design. She is interested in the design of informal learning environments and public space, as well as participatory design processes. Prior to beginning graduate school, Kristen spent eight years at the Science Museum of Minnesota where she developed programs for the museum's Learning Technologies Center (LTC) and Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center. She has participated in and led projects funded by the National Science Foundation and various corporate foundations, and worked with youth and educators across the U.S. and abroad.

Kristen continues to collaborate with LTC and the Exploratorium's Learning Studio, exploring the intersections of science, technology, art, craft, engineering and design through the development of project-based learning experiences for children, teens and adults. In her spare time, Kristen enjoys boating in The Sea Clamp (her home-made rowboat), planning thematic tour games of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and playing music on Indonesian gamelan instruments.

Michael Smith-Welch

As an educator Michael Smith-Welch is interested in learning environments that support creativity, iterative design, and diverse "ways of knowing." While studying with Mitchel Resnick in the MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Group he worked in museums including the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Michael has carried out numerous residencies in the New York City public school system, in addition to a 6 year teaching stint at the progressive Little Red School House in Greenwich Village.

More recently, Michael helped create intensive design-based workshops in Iceland and held a long-term residency in Hong Kong, helping create a community center that emphasizes creative thinking with new technologies.

Grace Kim

Grace Kim is a San Francisco based wearable technology designer. Her work centers on incorporating traditional crafts such as embroidery, knitting, applique, and sewing, into circuitry. She teaches soft circuitry workshops in the Bay Area.

Grace came to the Learning Studio as a featured maker in an Open Make event, and was a participant in the Mechanical Mischief: Twisted Toys challenge.

Paul Nosa

Paul Nosa draws a lot. Creating a line is a balance between intention and recognizing the possibilities in the moment; this is ever emphasized when using natural mediums such as flower petals, water soluble inks, and the insect Cochineal.

Paul began making candles with his drawings wrapped around the outside. The endeavor was a catalyst for sewing. It has since become Paul's firm belief that all of life's questions can be answered with a sewing machine. What began as the notion of putting Art on shirts eventually evolved into the notion of making "patches": Paul will interpret whatever you can describe using five words or less, and make a free-flowing embroidery design.

This opened a world of ideas. An odd family of characters emerged, like these abstract fish animal people who make up FishTown: there's Mister Trout Pants, Octalottalipapus, Sea Moe, Fish Head, Squid Nose, Fish Mits, the Elephish, and many more sewing designs.

Ken Murphy

Ken Murphy is a musician, tinkerer, and jack of all trades. He mentored a robotics club at a school and became obsessed with microcontrollers and trying to use electronics creatively. In the quest to make the simplest thing possible, he came up with blinky bugs.

Ken collaborates with Learning Studio staff, sharing ideas and techniques on electronics and interactive art. He is currently undertaking a year-long effort to film the San Francisco sky every day. Currently, an image of the sky is being captured every 10 seconds from a camera installed on the roof of the Exploratorium. The images collected over each 24-hour period are assembled into a 6 minute movie.

The final piece will consist of a large projected grid of 365 movies, each representing one day of the year, and cycling in parallel through consecutive 24-hour periods. The viewer can stand back and observe the atmospheric phenomena of an entire year in just a few minutes, or approach the piece to focus on a particular day.

Leigh Anne Langwell

Leigh Anne is a visual artist who uses the interplay of light and shadow to explore connections between micro and macro worlds. Her research has come from her background in medical photography and medical imaging technology. She uses sculpture and photographic materials to create shadow images that reflect the imagined communities and molecular and subatomic spaces of the body.

During her Learning Studio residency, Leigh Anne built a makeshift darkroom and collaborated with pretty much everyone to explore new techniques, materials and ideas in shadowcasting and photograms.

Krys Bobrowski

Krys Bobrowski is a sound artist and musician.

In addition to concert works, she has created interactive installations and designed day long performances. Krys often transforms natural and everyday objects such as kelp and bowls into musical instruments.

As part of her residency in the Learning Studio, Krys played with air- and helium-filled balloons as resonators for her music, and with steel plates and electric conduit tubing as sound sources. You can see the results of her tinkering here, and listen to a piece on kelp horn and conduit pipes here.

Gever Tulley

A software architect, Gever Tulley is the co-founder of the Tinkering School, a weeklong camp where lucky kids get to play with their very own power tools. He's interested in helping kids learn how to build, solve problems, use new materials and hack old ones for new purposes. He has given a couple of talks about it at the prestigious TED conference. He's also a certified paragliding instructor.

Gever is our first official "Tinkerer In Residence", working with Learning Studio staff on a variety of Tinkering Studio activities, and responsible for our addiction to the LaserCutter.

Michael Swain & Stijn Schiffeleers

Michael Swain is an inventor and designer working in many media. He has collaborated with artist collective Futurefarmers since 1997, where he is considered the analog anchor of the studio. The organization's interdisciplinary projects range from fingerprint video games to bingo to an outdoor mapping workshop in Toronto. Michael is dedicated to working in the community; his "Reap What You Sew" Generosity Project involved him pushing an old fashioned ice cream style cart on wheels with a treadle-operated sewing machine on it through the streets of San Francisco. Currently, Michael is teaching at California College of the Arts.

Michael is currently building the Free Mending Library in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. It is located at 509 Ellis, a location recently rededicated as the Tenderloin National Forest by the Luggage Store gallery. It is a library for fixing the holes in our lives - a place to borrow thread and sewing machines and talk about life.

Michael's work is always collaborative in nature. It has been included in exhibitions at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art; and the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

Working in many media Stijn, another Futurefarmer, reveals the subtleties of life via works on paper, video and interactive installations. His art work embodies a sense of play and sensitivity that reminds us to take a closer look at what surrounds us. He is the co-founder of Boutique Vizque, a platform for media based explorations resulting in various tangible installations including Babble, Dustbunnies and Modus Motus. Stijn lives and works in the Bay Area, but still has a strong connection with his country of origin, Belgium.

During their NEA-sponsored artist residency in the Learning Studio, they will work side-by-side allowing for unavoidable collisions. Michael will be outfitting his mobile sewing-machine cart with a mechanical music-making device that will allow his "customers" to punch their own sheet music while they wait for their clothes to be mended. Stijn will finish a long awaited tangible interface for a rhythm sequencer called "Beat Blocks". This wooden interface enables a playful and collaborative approach to music making and can be used both for educational purposes and as a performance tool.

Andrew Lyndon

Andrew is an Oakland-based videographer, animator, and filmmaker who makes stand-alone video, freelance multimedia work, video theater sets, and narrative film. He is the digital imaging and video instructor at Pixar Animation Studios and was the editor for the SIGGRAPH 2005 Computer Animation Festival (CAF), producing and editing the festival trailers. BFA, Bennington College; MFA, Yale University.

Andrew recently finished animation and titles for the documentary Making Whiteness Visible, motion graphics for the Ella Baker Foundation, forensic animation detailing the replication of DNA, and his video/animation Cat Black Sea was included in the Milkbar International Film Festival in 2007, which screened in San Francisco and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Andrew worked in the Learning Studio as an Artist in Residence, sponsored by an NEA grant. During his residence, he built a whimsical mechanical contraption that we affectionately call a "do-nothing machine".

Leah Buechley

Leah is an Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the High-Low Tech research group. The High-Low Tech group explores the integration of high and low technology from cultural, material, and practical perspectives, with the goal of engaging diverse groups of people in developing their own technologies. Leah is a well-known expert in the field of electronic textiles (e-textiles), and her work in this area includes developing a method for creating cloth printed circuit boards (fabric PCBs) and designing the commercially available LilyPad Arduino toolkit. Her research was the recipient of the best paper award at the 2006 International Symposium on Wearable Computers and has been featured in numerous articles in the popular press including the New York Times, Boston Globe, CRAFT Magazine, Denver Post, and Taipei Times. Leah received PhD and MS degrees in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in physics from Skidmore College.

Leah came to the Learning Studio for two weeks as part of an NEA Artist in Residence grant. While in residence, she designed and built a large-scale interactive painting, inspired by craftsman-style wallpaper.

Chris Bell

Chris was born in Sydney, Australia in 1966. Two years study in Industrial design was followed by his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts, graduating in 1992. He has since exhibited sculpture or installations yearly, mostly with experimental art organizations. He has received support from The Australian Council of the Arts, Arts Victoria and the Pollock-Krasner foundation, (1999). He won Melbourne's Fundere Sculpture Prize in 2003 and a major public commission for Melbourne's new civic square in 2000. He has worked as resident artist at Belfast's Flax Art Studios, the Noosa Regional Gallery and California's Headlands Center for the Arts. He currently lives in San Francisco, having recently completed his MFA with Stanford University.

Chris was the recipient of the 2008 Bob Miller memorial Artist Residency, he experimented with Learning Studio staff to develop an installation and related activities exploring light reflections.

Diane Willow

Diane is a multi-modal artist. Working at the intersection of art, science, and technology, she experiments with hybrid media to explore the dynamics of nature, technology, and community. Her public installations, interactive environments, and evocative objects involve media as eclectic as bioluminescent organisms, embedded computers, found sound, and time-lapsed video. She invites people to engage in multisensory explorations as participants and choreographers rather than as viewers.

Diane collaborated with Learning Studio staff on the PIE Network project as a project partner, and on the PIE Institute project as a project advisor.

Edith Ackermann

Edith works with partners from varying backgrounds to help shape the future of play and learning in a digital world. She studies how people use place, relate to others, and treat things to find their ways - and voices - in an ever-changing world. Two lessons she has learned: When it comes to learning and creative uses of technologies, children have more to teach adults than adults do to children! When it comes to innovating for others, don't guess what they want or do what they say: co-create what they - and you - will love once it is there!

Edith is an ongoing collaborator and advisor for Learning Studio projects and educational research.

Alice Wingwall

When noted photographer and sculptor Alice Wingwall began losing her sight, she became determined to continue making visual art. Now almost completely blind, Wingwall remains a vital visual artist, making lyrical and poignant photo-based works and installations that often express her experience of being without sight.

Alice Wingwall earned an M.F.A. in sculpture from UC Berkeley and was a professor of sculpture and director of the studio arts program at Wellesley College. She has explored many different mediums, and she trained in stained-glass fabrication in Paris. She co-directed a film with Wendy Snyder MacNeil titled Miss BlindSight/The Wingwall Auditions, which won Best Independent Film at the 25th anniversary New England Film and Video Festival.

Alice is an ongoing collaborator with the Learning Studio.

Douglas Repetto

Douglas is an artist and teacher. His work, including sculpture, installation, performance, recordings, and software is presented internationally. He is the founder of a number of art/community-oriented groups including dorkbot: people doing strange things with electricity; ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show; organism: making art with living systems; and the music-dsp mailing list and Web site.

Douglas installed Giant Painting Machine at the Exploratorium and collaborated with PIE Institute staff during the "Art Machines" atelier.

Bernie Zubrowski

Bernie is a Senior Scientist for Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), who has spent much of his professional life devising ways to educate young people about science, both while they're at school and when they're out in the world, away from the classroom. He has contributed to many landmark science curricula, including Elementary Science Study and the African Primary Science Program.

Bernie collaborated with Learning Studio while exploring bubbles, mist curtains, mirrors, and fluid dynamics.

Algis Sodonis

Algis is Chair of the Science Department at The Urban School of San Francisco and has been teaching science for 14 years to students ranging from 6th grade through seniors in high school. He is currently teaching 9th grade introductory science, 10th grade chemistry, and physics and applied electronics, a project-based fusion of physics, design, electronics, and programming.

Algis is an ongoing teacher-in-residence at Learning Studio focusing on project-based approaches to learning about electricity, microprocessors, art, and creativity.

Robbie Berg

Robbie is professor of physics at Wellesley College studying how people learn through design activities. Since 1995, he has collaborated with the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab to develop new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and finger paint of kindergarten, expand the range of what people design and create, and what they learn in the process.

Robbie collaborated with PIE Institute staff exploring new activities for the PICO Cricket, Scratch, and LogoChip.

Carlos Zapata

Carlos is a self-taught artist who has found unique ways of expressing himself through painting, drawing, and making things. In the late nineties he began making and selling his first automata, eventually enabling him to concentrate on creating new pieces full-time with the help of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. Many of the ideas for his new works have evolved and been taken from his experience of living in a foreign country, and in his home country of Colombia. His work is vibrant, full of emotion, and can be found in private collections and museums in several countries.

Carlos collaborated with Learning Studio staff to carve, paint, and construct wooden automata as part of the Exploratorium's "Tinkering" program.

Keith Newstead

Keith studied at Barking College of Art and Technology. After short-lived careers on a paper round in Finland and as a graphic designer, he became a motorcycle dispatch rider in London for 10 years. During this time he also made and sold jewelry. Keith counts his childhood memories of the machines in the Penny Arcade at Southend as being one of the most important influences on his work.

Keith collaborated with Learning Studio staff to construct all sorts of automata and models out of cardstock and paper.

Matt & Sarah Smith

After spending some time at various schools, including the Falmouth School of Art, Matt decided to spend his time making silly things. He began making automata in 1980. In 1986 he and Paul Spooner formed the Fourteen Balls toy co. Sarah collaborates with Matt, often painting the finishing touches on the automata. They work out of their home studio in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Matt and Sarah collaborated with Learning Studio staff to construct automata during the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre exhibition at the Exploratorium.

Bernie Lubell

Bernie creates interactive sculptural installations based on his studies in psychology and engineering. His projects have included a stone-age digital computer, a rainstorm of chaos and nostalgia, a phone booth-confessional communications network, and a simulation of the human heart as mechanical device.

Bernie collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the E-TARP residency program, and PIE Institute atelier series.

Thad Povey

Thad works in film, using found and exposed material, as well as scratched stock as a means of investigating the peculiarities of human communication in movement, gesture, and word. Povey has produced and co-produced twenty-four 16mm films, including thirteen solo works. He is founder of The Scratch Film Junkies, a collaborative that explores the physical realm of hand-manipulated filmmaking.

Thad collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the E-TARP residency program.

Hector Fernandez Pina

Hector creates multisenory, interactive environments that explore the psychology and physiology of human perception. From 2002 to the present he has been creator and host of a weekly radio program, Sonic Postcards, broadcast by the Universidad Ibero Americano, which uses radio as an experimental acoustic laboratory.

Hector collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the E-TARP residency program.

Ricardo Rivera

Ricardo is a sculptor and video maker. He uses light, perception, experience, communication and appropriation of objects as sources for his work. Rivera grew up in the Central California Valley in the small farming community of Courtland, California. He frequently references childhood experiences, for example, riding a bike alone in Courtland, or of miscommunications with people, he then reinterprets these experiences as a struggle with clarity. Currently, Rivera is adjunct faculty at Sacramento City College where he teaches Drawing. Rivera received his B.F.A and M.F.A from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Ricardo was an artist in residence as part of the Invisible Dynamics project.

Walter Kitundu

Walter is a sound artist, composer, visual artist, DJ, and instrument builder. Kitundu uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop compositions, installations, and instruments, including his construction of elemental turntables that rely on wood, water, fire, and earthquakes for their power and pitch control. He strives to reconnect the technologies of new music to fundamental principles of the natural world.

Walter collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the E-TARP residency program, and as a collaborating partner during the PIE Institute atelier series.

Joanna Haigood

Joanna Haigood's work is centered on making dances that use natural architectural and cultural environments as points of departure for movement and narrative exploration. Artistic Director and choreographer, Joanna co-founded ZACCHO Dance Theatre in 1980. Her work also integrates aerial choreography, offering audiences and performers new perspectives of the places and situations they inhabit.

Joanna collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the CILS project.

Tim Hunkin

Tim trained as an engineer, but then became a cartoonist, drawing the Rudiments of Wisdom for the Observer newspaper for 14 years. His next career was in television, writing and presenting three series called The Secret Life of Machines for Channel 4. He now works mainly for museums building interactive exhibits and curating and designing exhibitions.

Tim is a longtime collaborator with the Exploratorium staff. He collaborated with Learning Studio staff as part of the PIE Network, and PIE Institute projects.

Scott Snibbe

Scott has been creating immersive interactive installations since 1991 and is recognized as one of the field's pioneers. His work has been installed in more than a hundred of the world's top art and science institutions. He has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Prix Ars Electronica, the Rockefeller New Media Fellowship, and an NEA Artist's Project Grant.

Scott was in residence at the Learning Studio while testing a new computer-based modeling environment.

Dan Collins

Dan is a Professor of Intermedia within the School of Art at Arizona State University and Co-Director of the PRISM lab - an interdisciplinary 3D modeling and rapid prototyping facility. He also coordinates the foundation program in basic art instruction (artCORE) and Co-Directs an alternative art program called Deep Creek Arts in Telluride, Colorado.

Dan collaborated with Learning Studio staff by hosting staff and visitor explorations with new rapid prototyping technologies.

Bruce Shapiro

Bruce considers himself a scientist, but is continually amazed by the artistic side of his work because it's so clearly outside of the analytical realm. There's something immensely pleasurable and personally fulfilling about that side of what he does. In addition to science and art, the third aspect of what he's passionate about is education. Using science and art as educational tools brings everything together into this great mix.

Bruce collaborated with Learning Studio staff to build a few motion-control devices, explore educational connections, and share exhibit ideas with Exploratorium staff.

Contact Information