Art and Music as a Means of Conveying Information About the State of the Planet

Presented at SWPACA 2020 in Albuquerque, NM

Nina Kolodij and Susan E. Swanberg

Abstract: According to prevailing theories concerning the effectiveness of science journalism, we have a science communication problem – a problem that contributes to the phenomenon of climate change denial and other resistance to facts about the state of our environment. This presentation examines the use of alternative means of communicating with the public about science and the environment. Recently, the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (UA LPL) produced its annual Art of Planetary Science (APS) exhibition, “an annual art exhibition… that celebrates the beauty and elegance of science.” Organizers of the exhibition maintain that the study of space is important because it illustrates the fact that we are tiny, we live on a very delicate planet and that life is a rare event in the universe. The popularity of UA LPL’s exhibitions of planetary art and photography suggests the possibility that art could and should be used more frequently to communicate to the public information concerning the beauty of the earth and the universe that surrounds it as well as the existential threats our planet faces. This paper explores past and present models of science communication and presents preliminary results of a case study examining what the researchers call a “Third Culture” exhibition where scientists, artists and scientist/artists communicate about science using art as their vehicle. Semi-structured interviews revealed art exhibitors’ attitudes and beliefs about their contribution to improving science communication using art.