What’s in a name?
Last spring Sidney Perkowitz, Candler Professor of Physics, came
up with the term “creative moment” to describe the millisecond
in which a scientist or an artist experiences the joy of an experiment
that works or when a work of art comes together.
He, along with several others affiliated with Emory College, were
trying to come up with a new name for a new effort tentatively—and
somewhat clumsily—titled the “Science and Arts Collaborative
“Creative Moment,” while accurate, wasn’t exactly
right for the name of a project intended to run two or three years
and be the impetus for other collaborations intended to draw together
Emory’s arts and sciences communities.
After more discussion, Senior Associate Dean Lanny Liebeskind quietly
suggested “creative momentum.” Debbie Joyal of the arts
center repeated the term for everyone at the table, all of whom
were uniformly impressed. The project had long had a theme. Now
it had a catchy title.
Creative Momentum sprung from a semester-long project in spring
2001 called “Science and Art: Shared Frontiers.” That
program, created by Juliette Apkarian (Russian and East Asian Languages)
and Perkowitz, mixed a lecture series with a well-reviewed Schatten
Gallery exhibit. The point was to highlight the blending of science
“It came up in the most natural way,” Perkowitz said.
“This is the grass roots level where arts and science really
mix well with each other.”
Rosemary Magee, senior associate dean of the college, wanted to
build on the successful and thought-provoking run of “Science
and Art.” So she created a committee, cochaired by herself
and Liebeskind, invited a melting pot of faculty to join (Apkarian,
Perkowitz, psychology’s Marshall Duke, music’s Steve
Everett, dance’s Anna Leo and chemistry’s David Goldsmith),
added some staff members (Joyal, Amy Verner and Sally Pete), and
rounded out the group with a couple of arts interns (Blake Beckham
and Janelle Iglesias).
The plan was to focus on programming that highlighted how art and
science influence one another. It would start small, with only a
handful of events the first year, then build for future years—gain
momentum, so to speak.
“From my perspective, inspiration has been provided by the
opportunity to work closely with scientists and artists in the development
of two major and many smaller projects,” Magee said. The two
major projects she is referring to are the construction of the recently
opened Math and Science Center and the soon-to-open Schwartz Center
for Performing Arts.
“I was able to experience close up the science in art and
the art in science,” Magee continued. “There were more
similarities than differences. The similarities include close observation,
attention to detail and a willingness to follow the pathways of
The committee met three times this past spring and summer. While
everyone contributed, the faculty and administrators served as “idea
people,” while the staffers made the projects happen.
“To take these ideas, listen to them, then transform them
into something is very rewarding,” Joyal said.
As part of its careful start, Creative Momentum’s 2002–03
schedule mixes programming already scheduled (such as the Brave
New Works theatrical readings of last month, which Creative Momentum
cosponsored) with events created specifically for the program.
The first of these will take place Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and will
feature a work by Everett, associate professor and chair of music.
“Opaque Silhouette” is a 14-minute piece of a larger
composition called “KAM.” To create the piece, which
blends music and video, Everett used computer software to analyze
the dimensions of an Indonesian palace, then turned that analysis
into music and images. The result, which can broadly be described
as “electronic” (“But you can’t dance to
it,” Everett quipped), is an avant-garde work that is difficult
“I’ve never really separated the two—art and science,”
Everett said. “The scientific approach is not that different
from what music and the arts are trying to do. It’s a search
for truth. Musicians are trying to find it by looking at patterns
of sounds and see how they transform us.”
The performance will take place in the courtyard of the Math and
Science Center, which will play a significant role in the presentation—Everett’s
video will be projected onto its wall. Another part of the evening
will feature a piece by music’s John Cage called “Ryoanji,”
which also includes a dance accompaniment. Much of that dance is
done in silence, allowing the audience to “listen” to
the sounds created by the dancer as they bounce off the building.
In all, the evening will feature nearly a half-dozen musical performances.
Subsequent Creative Momentum programming involves the “tuning”
of the Schwartz Center’s Cherry Logan Emerson Concert Hall
in November, along with a discussion of the process by project manager
Dawn Schuette. The hall utilizes acoustical panels that can be adjusted
to individual performances and even to the size of the crowd. More
than 800 people will be invited to participate; part of the tuning
requires a simulated full house.
In the spring, composer Paul Drescher will not only perform an edgy
piece with his group Soundstage, which invents its own musical instruments,
but also talk about his work. Sprinkled throughout the year will
be panel discussions and performances that are scientifically artistic
(or artistically scientific).
“It’s been interesting to see people you would think
would have no reason to know each other or have any kind of common
ground,” said Verner, executive assistant to Magee. “Not
only do they have common ground—but they are creating it right
in front of you and they’re really passionate about it.”