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Bell Museum names Artists in Residence

Artists will explore the application of art as a medium for interpreting science in the public realm

March 20, 2013

Three Twin Cities area artists and an artists collective have been awarded short-term residencies at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Their goal is to engage with University of Minnesota researchers and the Bell’s scientific collections while exploring the application of art as a medium for interpreting science in the public realm. Two of the artists will complete their projects this spring and summer, while others will begin their work next fall and winter.

The residencies are part of the Bell Museum’s Resident Artist Research Project, which is led by adult programs coordinator Leah Peterson.

"The Bell has a rich history of exploring the intersections between art, nature and science along with a wealth of scientific resources," Peterson says. "We see this project as a way to connect the public with those resources by inviting the artist to be a leader in this process."

With funding from the McKnight Foundation, Peterson hopes the project brings diverse audiences together and challenges people to think about art and science in fresh new ways. "We hope to create experiences that will spark our enthusiasm and passion for discovering the world around us."

The artists in residence this spring and summer at the Bell Museum are:

Laurie Allmann, an environmental writer and poet who illuminates the complexities of science and nature through writing and other forms of creative expression. Allmann draws on her background in field biology and experience as a naturalist to explore the idea of "local knowledge" – ways of knowing that people develop through their interactions with the physical environment and their intimate experiences of place. Through poetry readings, public radio commentary, and television documentaries, as well as published literature, monologues and plays, Allmann conveys both the insights offered by research and her own enduring passion for the natural world.

Sonja Peterson employs motifs of common agricultural plants and animals, underground roots, spider webs, and vine-like growths to examine the global matrix of agricultural, financial and environmental systems. Using traditional paper cutting, collage and stencils, Peterson creates elaborate large-scale hanging papercuts that illustrate how the structural integrity of global systems lies in their interconnectivity: If elements disconnect, the entire system comes under threat of collapse. Inspired by the writings of Michael Pollan, Richard Holmes and many others, Peterson is currently interested in how the collection and trade of natural commodities like precious metals, plant-based dyes, spices, fruits and animal furs have linked nature to the global banking system and interwoven cultures, economies and ecological systems around the world.

Allmann and Peterson will debut their works April 27 at the Bell Social, an informal celebration of spring’s arrival. The always-popular Bell Social combines art and science with great eats, door prizes and a cash bar. This April’s event will also feature a live musical performance in the museum’s diorama halls by the Chastity Brown Trio.

Future Bell Museum artists in residence will include: In fall 2013, the MAW Collective – also known as Minneapolis Art on Wheels – a group of artists who activate and illuminate public spaces with mobile, large-scale projections of sound and video; and, in early 2014, artist Andy DuCett, whose work promises to "play" with traditional ideas of the museum-going experience while challenging the audience to question their own expectations for what objects are collected and how they are displayed.

The Bell Museum is part of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and strives to advance the quest to discover, document and understand life in its many forms and to inspire curiosity, delight and informed stewardship of the natural world. For details, visit

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