Builds on Interdisciplinary Arts Legacy with its Move to a New Home
When physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer founded the Exploratorium in 1969, he envisioned a hybrid between a laboratory and a public museum. The Exploratorium’s roots lie in an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the world, and from the very beginning artists have played a vital role in shaping the museum’s public offerings and learning methodologies.
When the Exploratorium re-opened its doors at Pier 15 on San Francisco’s waterfront a new era of expanded work in the arts began. The new Center for Art & Inquiry directed by curator Marina McDougall, will allow the museum to continue its pioneering work at the intersection of art, science and technology, and expand museum’s collaborations with artists around the world. This new programmatic focus on the arts was made possible through a generous grant from Sakurako and William Fisher.
“I seized the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the arts, the Exploratorium, and the Bay Area arts community,” says Bill Fisher. “It is a privilege to take the lead in inspiring the community to see interdisciplinary artwork—not to mention the Exploratorium itself and how it reveals how the world works—in new ways.”
The Center for Art & Inquiry will lead the Exploratorium’s arts strategy and direction. Working with program directors from across the museum as well as a council of national advisors, the Center oversees the museum’s long running Artist-in-Residence Program, hosts research fellows, and initiates special projects to advance work at the intersection of art and interdisciplinary learning.
“Art is a way of investigating the world,” explains McDougall, “and we believe in the importance of art in learning.”
At Pier 15, the Exploratorium is debuting new programs, projects and exhibition spaces. With expansive outdoor space, state-of-the-art facilities, and wide-ranging themes of investigation, the Exploratorium’s new home allows for great possibilities for artistic exploration. The Center for Art & Inquiry, will oversee a communications program to capture the innovations, approaches, and results of the Exploratorium’s work in the arts:
- Over the Water, an annual program of rotating, large-scale temporary works for the public realm at the Piers
- Artist-in-Residence Program, the Exploratorium’s hallmark, groundbreaking, process-oriented, cross-pollinating program for both emerging and mid-career artists to develop new projects
- Cinema Arts Program, soon celebrating its 30th anniversary this adventurous program presents an incredible mixed genre program in the Exploratorium’s new Kanbar Forum equipped with a state of the art Constellation acoustic system by Meyer Sound
- Black Box, an 800 square foot gallery space with controlled light and sound for media installations and special exhibitions
- Ways of Knowing conversation series, a dialogue on the creative process featuring leading thinkers and doers from across many disciplines including the arts
- Artist Collaborators, artists contribute to our ongoing research and development in key initiatives. Current themes include: human social behavior, physics and perception, ecologies of place, living systems, making as thinking
- Commissioned Works, as well as loaned artworks, from a vast array of artists animate the public offerings of the Exploratorium
NEW ARTS PROJECTS
More than 40 new art projects are on view at opening, including works by Fujiko Nakaya, Lucky Dragons, Doug Hollis, Amy Balkin, Semiconductor, Lynette Wallworth, Meara O’Reilly and Clayton Campbell. These projects take many forms from large-scale immersive installations to site-specific interventions to soon-to-be classic exhibits. Works include a large-scale fog environment, a fold-out guide to the atmosphere, a sidewalk grate that sonically comes alive at night, a giant Douglas Fir tree tipped on its side, and a library on Bay history. These projects have largely been developed by artists working closely with Exploratorium staff as collaborators and Artists-in-Residence. Read the complete Arts press kit here. For a list of temporary special exhibitions during the Exploratorium’s inaugural year, click here.
The Exploratorium views art as integral to learning. Inquiry, the learning approach espoused by philosopher and educator John Dewey, animated Oppenheimer’s educational vision for the Exploratorium.
In 2011 the Exploratorium convened an international conference entitled Art as a Way of Knowing, made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, to better understand the role of aesthetic inquiry in public interdisciplinary learning environments. As an outcome of the project, the Exploratorium has renewed its conviction to advocate for the importance of art as an essential aspect of learning.
The Exploratorium first opened in 1969 with Cybernetic Serendipity, the seminal exhibition of art, science, and technology curated by Jasia Reichardt for the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. Soon after, in 1974, the creation of an artist-in-residence program made possible dialogue and collaboration between artists and other interdisciplinary thinkers such as scientists, engineers, educators and inventors. By the late 1970’s the Exploratorium had established itself as the home for a burgeoning counter-cultural art scene.
Over the last 44 years the Exploratorium has presented the work of hundreds of artists and cultivated a unique working environment for artists interested in cross-disciplinary investigations and hybrid approaches.