By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Behind "NEURO" stands not the National Endowment for the Arts but the National Science Foundation (NSF), which has — through the CNSE — put up half the show's budget. Indeed, the impetus for the exhibition came from the scientists, in particular Perona. For some years, he explains, the NSF has encouraged major grant recipients to devote a portion of their funding to public outreach; last year that suggestion became mandatory policy. As a recipient of major NSF funding, the CNSE found itself with a problem: how to connect to the public without driving themselves barmy with frustration or boredom. Traditionally, most NSF outreach money has been spent on developing educational materials for use in schools, but, says Perona, "You can't excite people about something unless you feel excited by it yourself. I knew that if this wasn't fun, then nobody here would get involved, and since a number of us were interested in art, we thought why not put our funding into an exhibition?"
The "NEURO" project is being carefully watched by others at Caltech. Every year the institution receives some $60 million from the NSF, and from now on some portion of every dollar will have to be spent on outreach. That's an enormous commitment few scientists are equipped to handle, and some outrightly resent. Jill Andrews, Caltech's outreach officer, has been overseeing the "NEURO" project from the institution's side and notes that other groups are now looking excitedly at the prospects: "I've never seen scientists get so enthusiastic about outreach. Everyone appears to be having such a good time."
The NSF will be monitoring this experiment as well. Eager to promote science in more imaginative ways, they are hoping that this might be a model for the future. For the arts community, science offers not just a new subject but something more elusive — a new source of funding. At a time when traditional arts funding is in a state of crisis, an artist's best friend may well be the National Science Foundation.
NEURO | At the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena, (626) 396-2446; and in the Atheneum foyer, Caltech, 551 S. Hill Ave., Pasadena, (626) 395-8200 | April 15 through June 29
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city