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Artists, Scientists Match up at ‘Speed Dating’ Event

By Kate Rack

On Nov. 6, Earth Institute’s PositiveFeedback initiative, in conjunction with Marfa Dialogues/NY, held its fourth Art/Science Speed Dating event to promote collaboration between the two disciplines. In this case, “speed dating” is used as way to foster collaboration, encouraging participants to meet a large number of people from the opposite discipline. Just like all previous events, it was a fantastic night.

The event took place at the beautiful Rauschenberg Gallery Space in Chelsea. Guests entered through a gallery exhibition called Quiet Earth curated by Fairfax Dorn, founder of Ballroom Marfa, to a white room with tall ceilings, where chairs were arranged in two arching rows. With scientists in the first row, artists in the second, the night began with two featured dates.

Annea Lockwood, a musician and composer, matched with Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist with the NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The second pair featured Jennifer Monson, an artistic director, choreographer and performer, dating Shahid Naeem, a professor of ecology and evolution at Columbia University. Eli Kintisch, a writer for Science Magazine, moderated. 

Eli Kintisch talking with our featured daters. Photo by Joshua Priestley,
Eli Kintisch talking with our featured daters. Photo by Joshua Priestley,

Following the panel discussion, the crowd of approximately 25 artists and 25 scientists commenced speed-dating each other. After five minutes was up, it was time to switch seats to date another participant. Each dater met approximately a dozen counterparts.

During the dates, participants shared with one another work they had done on cell phones and tablets, and exchanged information, making plans to talk in the future. Daters everywhere were rapt in conversation, and you could see an occasional wild hand gesturing in excitement.

Lockwood said she was struck by the generosity of the scientific community.

“Several of the people I met in the round robin offered information about infra- and ultrasound sources for my current project, from caterpillars to bioluminescent animals, or said they would talk with colleagues — I can’t wait to track down the data and listen.” It is clear that the event set the stage for future conversations among the artists and scientists.

At the end of the night, daters felt gratified and enlightened by the experience, but a little exhausted.

“Twelve five-minute dates back to back is a lot of socializing, but everyone said that the experience was more than worth it,” Kintisch said. During the final talk back, many even wished that they had more time.

Keep an eye out for new Artist/Scientist collaborations — they likely began on this night.

PositiveFeedback gratefully acknowledges Marfa Dialogues/NY and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for making this event possible.

For more photos from the event, visit PositiveFeedback’s Flickr page. For information on Marfa Dialogues/ NY, click here.

Kate Rack is a climate and society masters student at Columbia University and an intern with PositiveFeedback.

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Karen Tompkins
9 years ago

Dear Kate,
It was very exciting to find your article. This event is something that really sparks my interest. As an artist with a science based practice, I am eager to collaborate, engage and explore the science/art connection. I would appreciate talking with you about how I might become a collaborator with a scientist as soon as possible as I am currently working on a series of 110 paintings titled “Luminous Objects” of the Messier Objects. Concurrently, I am continuing an earlier series “Elements” of the 118 elements of the periodic table. My website is
Thank you so much for your wonderful article and I look forward to hearing from you.
Karen Tompkins