When this weekend's Wisconsin Science Festival was in the planning stages, among the first to jump onboard were Madison artists and arts organizations. In its inaugural year, the festival is exploring the overlap between science and art. Says Laura Heisler, director of programming at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, "The arts people got it more quickly than the science people."
Programs will take place in locations across Madison on Sept. 22-25, including the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and the Madison Children's Museum. The full schedule is at wisconsinsciencefest.org. The event is free and open to the public.
"It's really in the air," Heisler says of the festival's theme. "If you Google 'art and science,' you'll see that there's a lot out there. It's an event that's been waiting to happen."
The festival marks the transition from the UW's Year of the Arts to the Year of the Wisconsin Idea - the belief that public universities should be thought leaders for the state. Thursday night's opening ceremony at Wisconsin Union Theater features work by UW-Madison arts luminaries, including the Pro Arte Quartet and dance professors Li Chiao-Ping and Chris Walker.
Friday's events include a molecular gastronomy dinner, curated by food science experts and prepared by chef Michael Pruett of the Institutes restaurant Steenbock's On Orchard. Journalism professor Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer winner and a best-selling author, leads a session about the science of murder. Channel 3's Neil Heinen moderates an "Essence of Creativity" panel with leading scholars in the sciences, arts and humanities.
Saturday, an installation at UW's new Badgerville space, along Breese Terrace, explores the science of football, from beer and brats to concussions. "It's an experiment," Heisler says of the pigskin happening. "It's never been done before." Saturday night, Norman Gilliland hosts a special live broadcast of his old-time radio show on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Sunday's events are well suited to families and educators. Producers from PBS's Nova will engage with community members and teachers, facilitating a workshop in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery's teaching labs. In the Institutes' Town Center space, 40 exploration stations will teach and entertain.
Taking cues from the National Science Festival in New York and MIT's Cambridge Science Festival, the Wisconsin Science Festival is part of a global science-fest movement.
"It wasn't hard once we started raising the conversations," says Heisler of putting together the festival's 80-plus sessions. "There's unbelievable momentum in the community."