RTP 180 fuses science, business and art

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 08:35 PM

Beth Yerxa, director of Triangle Artworks, thinks art can do much more than entertain.

“Arts create jobs,” Yerxa said. “They bring people to downtown, they fill up restaurants and hotels…but the important thing to remember is arts are jobs.”

Yerxa was one of seven presenters at Art in the Triangle, which highlighted art’s connection to other areas, from bug conservation to economic development.

The event was part of the RTP 180 Series, held on the third Thursday of every month at the RTP headquarters. Each event features a different topic.

Yerxa said a creative economy brings people to an area, creates exports and enhances quality of life.

Her company aims to support the arts as a business community by aggregating support, services and resources in one place.

Carrie Donley, director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, discussed convergent science, and said scientists can learn from artists.

“So often in universities, we’re put in these silos,” Donley said. “(Convergent science) is the complete opposite of that. We should be talking with people who are in other departments and other disciplines…in order to solve problems in more creative ways.”

Martin Fischer, assistant research professor at Duke University, presented the art imaging initiative at the Duke Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging.

Through this initiative, researchers are imaging historical pigments in artworks to determine how the works were made, using the same technology used in imaging human tissue.

“Optically, tissue and a painting are not all that different,” Fischer said. “There are layers and mixtures.”

Brandon Ballengee, an artist and biologist, displayed his “Love Motel for Insects,” a series of sculpted, lit structures that use ultraviolet light to attract bugs.

“I’m interested in how art and science work together and inspire a conservation message,” Ballengee said.

Through his art, Ballengee organizes many events internationally to educate people about bugs and their impact on the food supply by pollinating crops.

“There (are) lots of reasons to love bugs,” Ballengee said. “It’s a $153 billion a year service that bugs provide to us; without insects, we would be pretty hungry.”