‘Reintegrate’ merges arts, sciences

“I’m basically making 200 glass gallbladders,” said Daryl Smith, the glassblower for Yale’s Chemistry Department and a member of the “Conversations on Body and Faith” team, one of seven groups selected to participate in the Arts Council of Greater New Haven’s “Reintegrate” project.

On Tuesday, the Arts Council announced that it will give $10,000 to each of seven Connecticut-based teams of artists and scientists to conduct collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects. Forty-two teams applied for the grant in early September, and the winners will present their projects in New Haven during late May or early June.

“We’re hoping to see some real innovations, to bring two disparate worlds together and see a spark,” said Amanda May, the communications manager for the Arts Council and Reintegrate’s project coordinator.

Other Reintegrate projects include a multimedia performance piece about stem cell research, a dance and photography presentation about the Higgs particle discovery and a database of places from scenes in literature that the team will analyze to discover how authors create a “sense of place,” according to Reintegrate’s website.

“Conversations on Body and Faith” will be an art installation consisting of glass replicas of human organs, such as gallbladders and uteri, as well as photographs of those organs, said medical student Lucinda Liu MED ’14, who is spearheading the project. The team consists of Liu, Smith, another glass artist and three Yale surgeons.

Liu said she was surprised to learn during her medical training that parts of the human anatomy are so brightly colored. Fat, for instance, ranges from a tan, golden-yellow to a canary yellow depending on where it is in the body, she explained.

“In the body, you see the colors of organs only because the light hits them,” she said. “That’s how glass works, too: it only works if you have light streaming through.”

Liu said she hopes that in addition to being visually striking and informative, the installation will have a political message.

“I hope people will realize that perhaps the hospitals and doctors can’t do everything, that the problems in our society are more rooted in the way we eat and smoke and drink and sit around with our laptops,” she said. “Hopefully this project will make people take a step back and appreciate our bodies.”

Dexter Singleton, the executive director of Collective Consciousness Theatre in New Haven, is working with Eric Jackson, an associate research scientist in psychiatry at the School of Medicine and a psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven, on “Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” a multimedia performance piece for Reintegrate.

At the Collective Consciousness Theater, Singleton works on original plays and workshops based on social issues in the New Haven community. He said he was particularly drawn to the Reintegrate project because science was one of his weaker subjects in school.

“When I fear something, I find myself running the fastest to it,” he said.

Singleton said he asked Jackson to work with him because he needed a scientist with whom he could collaborate artistically, citing Jackson’s previous work as a club DJ as evidence of Jackson’s love of the arts. Jackson’s specialty is post-traumatic stress disorder, a subject that appealed to Singleton because of its current political relevance with soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“So many soldiers are coming back with PTSD, and they need a platform to talk about what they experienced. Mental health issues so often take a backseat in American society,” Singleton said, adding that he hopes “Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” will help start some of these necessary discussions.

Singleton and Jackson’s ultimate multimedia piece will involve acting, video clips, original music, hip-hop, modern dance and spoken word poetry. Singleton said he wants to use multiple types of media to “touch a lot of different parts of the brain and stimulate a lot of senses in the body.”

A panel of both artists and scientists chose the seven winning teams and scored the applicants’ proposed projects on their depth of two-way collaboration and the individual credentials of the team members, May said. Preference was given to teams from New Haven.

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