The Science of Art

Katie Lebhar Black ’95 Interim Director of Fine Arts

You may think that classes in the Fine Arts Department engage only the right side of the brain as students work with their hands, voices, bodies and instruments to create. However, many people do not realize the scientific processes inherent to each varied form of art. When studying stage lighting and sound design, students must first understand the physics involved in working with these mediums. Set construction involves intricate math, reading ground plans, and advanced computer design skills. Making beautiful sounds in music happens only with the study of the language of music theory, the engineering of an instrument, and the physiology of vocal production. Actors are sociologists and anthropologists, aiming to more deeply and honestly inhabit their characters and the worlds created in dramatic literature. Dance is inherently anatomy and kinesiology on display, enhanced through knowledge of the science of the body. A painter needs to understand the theory of light reflection in order to communicate through paint. Similarly, a photographer in a dark room is a scientist in a lab, carefully mixing  chemicals and experimenting with exactly how much or little light to expose. In ceramics, students must first understand how to cut and weigh clay before ever using that clay to create a piece of sculpture or pottery.

In these first weeks of school, our teachers are going back to the basics and creating the technical groundwork necessary for our students to create. The arts are not separate from all learning. Rather, they are a way to express the scientific, cultural, and spiritual realities of our world. If we are created in the image of God, then we are created to create! We must recognize that He created the world around us, a world we can know through science and express through art.