Innovation InSight: Students blend art, science to create unique views of iconic La Jolla buildings

In an effort to truly integrate art into the education acronym STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), La Jolla Community Foundation granted $5,600 to Outside the Lens (OTL) at Muirlands Middle School for a program called Innovation InSight. This was the first year for the program, but OTL coordinator Lucy Eagleson said it could be repeated should more funding become available.

Beginning in January, 18 Innovation InSight students took field trips to the J. Craig Venter Institute, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Pharmatek Laboratories, and Scripps Institute of Oceanography to study biotechnology, marine science and architecture — snapping photos to represent what they learned.

Each student contributed at least three photos (one from each area of study) to a collective exhibit unveiled May 26 at the La Jolla Riford Library, which will remain on view through the summer.

“As part of Outside the Lens’ mission to empower youth through digital photography, Innovation InSight embraced the artistic side of science,” Eagleson said. “Week-by-week and month-by-month, it’s been incredible to see students’ voices and perspectives fine-tuned and brought to life.” Through weekend workshops and in-school programs, OTL teaches photographic skills and techniques to promote digital media literacy.

The field trips focused on the various careers in marine sciences and biotechnology, but also examined the architecture of La Jolla landmarks. For some, the latter was the most inspiring.

Student Ian Marcus, whose father teaches ceramics at La Jolla High School, said examining the intention of a building influenced his work.

“We got to look at the message (architects) wanted to convey with their projects. These buildings are more than just four walls. It’s not just about the building’s function, but the inspiration behind it,” Ian said. “I looked for the inspiration and figured out how to get that same message into a photo.”

He used a layering technique he learned at OTL and several pictures taken in one spot to convey his message in a photo he submitted in the biotechnology category.

Drawing on the lessons in point-of-view she learned at OTL, student Stella Wineman showed two photos from opposing points of view — one from a balcony shooting down, the other from sitting on the ground and pointing up.

“I really enjoyed taking pictures at the Salk Institute — all of the architecture was really natural and you could tell that’s what they were going for,” Stella said.

Other students drew upon the vibrant colors found in nature for inspiration.

“When we studied marine science, that was my favorite part. I learned a lot about what animals do in their natural habitats,” said Suzanne Yorgin. “I like to take pictures of nature and natural things. When it comes to the colors, I just like to keep it raw. I like to give nature credit.”

Suzanne’s photo of an orange fish swimming through a sea plant against bright blue water says it all.

Muirlands principal Harlan Klein attended the exhibit opening to check out the finished products. “It’s really impressive how creative these students are and when given the freedom, they produced really high quality work. They should be really proud of their accomplishments. It’s all so creative, but it’s creativity with a sense of intention,” he said.

Beyond the still photos, some students produced videos using techniques in point-of-view and stop-motion animation. A highlight was a stop-motion animation film that showed students “building” a cell using gelatin and candy to represent the parts of a cell — from its walls and membranes to nucleus and ribosomes.

Another film showed a team of students constructing an Eiffel Tower out of uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows in fast forward, from start to finish.

The reception doubled as an awards ceremony, as the work was judged by a panel of local experts: La Jolla librarian Shaun Briley, Warwick’s Books owner Nancy Warwick, C&H Photo owner Leon Chow, La Jolla Historical Society director Health Fox, Athenaeum Music & Arts Library assistant director Maura Walters, and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego education curator Cris Scorza. Each judge contributed a prize for the winners. Eagleson explained within the three

categories of architecture, marine science and biotechnology were three sub-categories of film (video), still photo and mobile device.

These scientific artists won first place for their sub-categories:

■ Architecture, film: Abby McCarter, Ian Marcus, Robert Belnap, Christian Huitema for Spaghetti Tower

■ Architecture, still photo: Sky Alawi

■ Architecture, mobile device: Stella Wineman

■ Marine Science, film: Elle Von Mueller, Emma Joehnk, Suzanne Yorgin for Under the Sea

■ Marine Science, still photo: Christian Huitema

■ Marine Science, mobile device: Mason King

■ Biotechnology, film: Class project — cell candy stop motion

■ Biotechnology, still photo: Ian Marcus

■ Biotechnology, mobile device: Mason King

La Jolla Community Foundation made the Innovation InSight experience possible with a grant awarded during the 2014-2015 grant cycle, which focused on arts and/or sciences. Grants committee chair Susan McClellan said the next grant cycle will focus on projects that meet the theme Enhancing Community Aesthetic.

“Everyone wants to see a more beautiful La Jolla, so that could include (projects that create) community gardens, murals or park benches. We are excited to see the creativity that comes forth,” she said.

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