Monday, May 9, 2016

Post-Project Ripple Effects

The Conversation E project, took place in 2013. This website is a record of its planning and resulting events which concluded at the end of 2013. However the project's impact continues forward. While it is difficult to track the ripple effects of a project that brings together so many people, there are two projects in particular that grew from Conversation-E that point to a significant continuation of its themes of environmental conversation between art and science and between people and place.

Art-Science Exhibition: Sustainable Acts, Mother Earth's Embrace (SAMEE), 2015
Building off the excitement and success of the Conversation-E art exhibit, "Tales of Environmental Turbulence, The Common Trail of Art and Science," Conversation-E co-leader, Roslye Ultan, with a new IonE mini-grant, put on the SAMEE exhibit. This exhibit celebrates and art-science perspective on environmental issues and includes related activities such as artists talks, dance performance, and an art-environment panel presentation at the National conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Eduation (AASHE). See the SAMEE website, for more about this project.

Bridge Design Project: WIIN AJOGANIKE “We make a bridge,” 2016
In planning the Conversation-E retreat and workshop "Forest Trails & Forest Tales - Exploring place, story and climate change at the Cloquet Forestry Center," relationships between the forestry center and the Fond du Lac band of Ojibwe adjacent to the center were further developed and through this exploration of their common interest in the land, the idea of a bridge was put forth that would better connect the two communities to the land and each other. A bridge planning committee was formed after the project to continue exploration. To help the committee develop their ideas, Conversation-E co-leader, Jonee Kulman Brigham, reached out to Landscape Architecture professor, John Koepke, who then proposed a new Institute on the Environment mini-grant to bring a team of landscape architecture students to help the committee explore design options that reflected the values and history of the people and the land. Documentation is in progress as of this post, but there is a web page with an interview about the project planning.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Final week to peek inside Sean Connaughty's biosphere

Europa Module 2 by Sean Connaughty

The Tales of Environmental Turbulence Exhibition at Institute on the Environment will be dismantled on Monday, January 6th. During the last two months the interest and conversation has been growing --and so has one of the exhibits. Europa Module 2, by artist and UMN art instructor Sean Connaughty, is a floating biosphere that contains a living ecosystem within a porcelain orb. Beneath the water in the Europa Module’s sealed environment are plants, soil and biota. LED lights illuminate the interior allowing for photosynthesis.

Connaughty explains that this and prior structures “reference the history of humans’ involvement with the natural world. They recall a survival-based relationship to the environment. They are reflections on human involvement with the natural world alluding to our history and our future.” While Connaughty is concerned with our relationship to the Earth, his inspiration reaches further out in the solar system.

I have long been fascinated by Jupiter’s moon Europa. It is speculated that the icy moon contains liquid water beneath its surface ice. This is where I get the title “Europa Module.” I want to inspire the imagination and in my imagination I hope that someday a much larger version of this piece could reside in the waters beneath Europa’s icy surface.

Connaughty was one of the round table speakers discussing the intersection of art and environment on November 7th along with exhibition curator and project co-leader, Roslye Ultan, project co-leaders Peter Reich and Jonee Kulman Brigham, and Lewis Gilbert Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Institute on the Environment.

Changing biospheres

Europa Module 2 by Sean Connaughty
Photo by Jonee Kulman Brigham
Europa Module 2 is an evolving work. When I was watering the exhibit in mid-December for Sean to make up for the 10 gallons that had evaporated from the tank, I noticed that one of the plants had grown right up to the viewing window with its leaves pressed against the glass as if it were as curious about the world outside the orb as the viewers were of the world inside. This plant, pushing at the boundary of its environment, made me wonder what happens to this microcosm of earth as it continues to grow after the exhibit and over time. Connaughty says that the module will continue to grow and be monitored until its next public venue. Some prior modules have been growing for up to three years.

Another world on view

Europa Module (1) by Sean Connaughty
There is another work of Connaughty's that viewers can watch as it grows over time. Europa Module 1 (or Europa Module) is a similar floating biosphere to Europa Module 2, but offers a different viewing experience. The interior of this sculpture is only viewable through wireless camera installed inside. Viewers are able to see the interior of the Europa Module via wireless camera on the internet at:
Username: europamodule
Password: europamodule

When the viewer enters the username and password, they will become an operator of the camera. Through the controls the viewer can rotate the camera and explore this submerged ecosystem. (More than one viewer cannot control the camera at once, so if the controls do not seem to work, try back later.)

About the Artist

Sean Connaughty is a Minneapolis based multi-media artist. Sean earned his BFA in Painting from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1989, before completing his MFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2000. He is an instructor of painting and drawing at The University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University. Sean has exhibited his work internationally. Collections include the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia and The Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN.


Sean Connaughty is a fiscal year 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the cultural heritage fund.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Round Table Discussion Coming November 7


In conjunction with the exhibition Tales of Environmental Turbulence, on view at the Institute on the Environment, there will be a roundtable discussion as a concluding event in the one-year Conversation-E project on the intersection of art and science. Participants in this conversation are special guests Peter Reich, Regents Professor and Senior Chair in Forest Ecology; Lewis Gilbert, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Institute on the Environment; and Sean Connaughty, multi-media artist, Adjunct Professor of Art, U of MN.  They will join Jonee Kulman Brigham, AIA,LEED AP, Research Fellow, Center for Sustainable Building Research, and Roslye Ultan, Art Historian/Curator, Senior Faculty MLS/ U of MN, co- recipients of the Conversation-E grant, in a critical look at how art can work with science as a stimulant for progressive, innovative and interventionist thinking.

We will discuss questions that probe into the multiple layers of environmental turbulence for the common good of global survival. How do we awaken people to be participants in the evolving and dramatic changes in nature? What is the role of art and science in adapting and responding to climate change, for example? Artists and scientists respond to environmental issues in different ways. How are they different and/or similar? How can they work together to make a difference in how we investigate complex issues and bring about greater involvement and understanding in our communities? People in diverse cultures have different ways of seeing and knowing their circumstances in society. How do we encourage the disciplines of art/aesthetics and science to work together to form new initiatives and innovations that can serve our culture’s immediate and long term needs for sustainability? These questions are some that the roundtable participants will delve into as we struggle with the impact of climate change and related environmental concerns.     

By Roslye Ultan

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Institute on the Environment's Eye on Earth Blog covers Exhibition

Monique Dubos wrote "Where Art & Science Meet," about the Tales of Environmental Turbulence Exhibition and interviewed Curator Roslye Ultan, as well as exhibiting artists.

Link to Article

Monday, October 21, 2013



By Roslye Ultan

The exhibition Tales of Environmental Turbulence: The Common Trail of Art and Science opened on October 17th at The Institute on the Environment and Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library at the University of Minnesota to an enthusiastic public response.   The exhibition was the culminating event of a one year mini- grant for Conversation-E: Science + Art in Dialogue and Service to Sustainability from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.  The exhibit was curated by Roslye Ultan, with the assistance of Tanya Gravening, and Conversation-E co-leader, Jonee Kulman Brigham
Works of art from twenty-four artists were featured ranging from traditional painting and photography to mixed-media installation pieces especially created for this exhibition by artists committed to advancing the understanding of global environmental concerns through an aesthetic and sensory perception. The artists were present to mingle with the public through the evening’s events which included the premier of the musical piece Environmental Impact Statement. This work was performed by singer/actor Momoko Tanno, and instrumentalists Iris Shiraishi, Japanese drums (Taiko), James Holdman playing found object percussion instruments, Scott Currie, alto saxophone, and Alex Lubet, who conceived the concept of the project, playing double bass. The audience was called on to participate in one section of the work performed in the grand atrium of the Learning and Environmental Sciences building. The impetus of the work came as a request from curator Roslye Ultan for musicians to perform and engage the audience.  The theme centered on nuclear incidents in Japan intermingled with words of the 19th century American naturalist John Muir. The music included elements of American Jazz and Japanese idioms. The audience was enthralled with the experience barely whispering their parts not to impose on the musicians.

Installation artist Sean Connaughty lured viewers to look for the unexpected inside a large non-descript fish tank containing a floating  white ceramic bowl with a small opening  to be delighted by the discovery of a beautiful green ecosystem. It is his desire to create green-spaces where none existed before. John Crisco’s colorful 3-d constructed works explore the way in which environments and landscapes are altered by society and show nature’s ability to reclaim spaces that have been abandoned.  The mixed-media environmental projects of artist Tanya Gravening call on the community to participate in gathering plastic pollutants to construct her monuments of trash. These large scale three dimensional objects are at once playful, like Totem of Toys, and serious in inviting awareness concerning the quantity of detritus in our society. Painter Peter Lommen portrays the celestial beauty of the night sky as a cultural resource free from the glow of artificial light pollutions.  Especially created for Tales of Turbulence is John Rummelhoff’s cycle of works commemorating the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989. As both artist and biologist Bonnie Ploger uses the power of art to generate senses of curiosity about the natural world. In her photograph B4-Warmed, from the Cloquet forest project, she looks for the beauty in scientific experimentation in climate change in the boreal forests from a vantage point that forms a spiritual triangle. Other artists in the show visit ideas of technological changes and advances while others like Jeff Savage of the Fond du Lac community build on past traditions and sacred beliefs in hand-crafting Birchbark canoes and other objects that pay homage to our country’s native cultures.

As an expression of environmental stewardship, the presentation of an energy star award for the building, and initiation of energy improvements to the atrium were timed with the opening of the exhibition.  And, local, sustainable reception refreshments were provided by Common Roots CafĂ©.

This exhibition is landmark in asserting the links between the environmental sciences and the arts as they form bonds in interpreting the challenges and plight of our world whose sustainability is threatened by human action.

The exhibit runs through January 6, 2014 at The Institute on the Environment, and Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library, Rapson Hall at the University of Minnesota.  The public is encouraged to visit the show during regular university hours Monday-Friday.

Roslye B. Ultan

Jonee Kulman Brigham

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turbulence Exhibition featured on Collge of Design's News Blog

Jolene Brink posted an article about the Turbulence Exhibition at the College of Design Blog: "Design At Minnesota"
Link to Post

Exhibition Press Release Available

The October 10 press release for the Tales of Environmental Turbulence exhibition is available to share with your networks. Please help spread the word, particularly about the opening reception and the round table.
Download Press Release