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Sneak peek: Innovation District State of Science goes virtual, highlights Echelman’s fusion of art and tech

Margie Manning



Bending Arc (Credit: by Brian Adams, courtesy echelman.com )

Internationally known artist Janet Echelman, creator of the aerial sculpture Bending Arc at the St. Pete Pier, will keynote this year’s State of Science, a flagship event for the St. Petersburg Innovation District.

Echelman’s work fuses art and technology. That fusion is the theme of the Oct. 13 event.

“Many artists integrate science in their creative process, though that might not be apparent,” said Alison Barlow, executive director of the Innovation District. “We all love St Pete as an arts community. We also are working hard to ensure it is also a dynamic environment for jobs in science and technology. However, we don’t often talk about the fact that these fields are deeply interconnected. For example, consider the use of engineering by local sculptors or the use of chemistry by local glass makers.”

Echelman, who is a Tampa native, uses a variety of scientific techniques in her process.

“Janet Echelman’s work in particular intrigued me because of the engineering she incorporates to suspend the sculptures, the technology software she uses to envision the artwork, and how she is often inspired by natural features (e.g., shells, landscape),” Barlow said.

Echelman will be followed by a series of fast-paced, brief presentations by local innovators that highlight their cross-discipline projects. Speakers are:

  • Mark Luther, director of the ocean monitoring and prediction lab in the University of South Florida College of Marine Science
  • Ahsante Bean, editor and program manager of video strategy at Poynter Institute, and leader of VidSpark, a social video storytelling initiative
  • Heather O’Leary, USF assistant professor in anthropology and director of the EcoFem Lab, an interdisciplinary think-tank at USF St. Petersburg
  • Two Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital staffers who are focused on clinical treatment and data analytics: Luis Ahumada and Dr. Prem Fort

It’s the third year for State of Science. In the past two years it’s been held at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, but will be online this year. The virtual format allowed the Innovation District to draw a national guest speaker such as Echelman, Barlow said.

“I love the element of our past State of Science events when we invite participants to speak in small groups with the presenters during the reception. The personal connections are what makes our community special. I will miss that feature,” Barlow said. “Instead we are going to do a brief panel for Q&A. Also it has required us to get smart about technology tools and how to use them best.  I am thankful we have done this event for the last two years so we had a great foundation to build off from.”

State of Science 2020 will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 13. There is no cost, but registration is required at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ALG_8OdbQ_-1frjV7eyxTg

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