The a2ru Emerging Creatives Summit on water sustainability in Gainesville, Florida was my third a2ru event. I brought a student who is researching water desalinization for her PhD at MIT. She is also an active performance and installation artist. In short, she was well prepared to engage in the summit as both a scientist and an artist. a2ru has excelled at creating spaces where scientific research and an artist’s flexibility of mind can come together. The conference, hosted at the University of Florida, was another wonderful example of this new and active space.
The water summit proved exceptionally useful in addressing a concern I have- the tendency for research to happen in a bubble. Over the three day summit, students were given the opportunity to share their research in a format driven by creativity, an artist’s way of thinking, and a strong faculty and staff support structure.
Though the problems presented at the emerging creatives summits may not be solved in one weekend the connections made and the plans hatched certainly move the problems along in a way unlike one would find in the lab or the classroom. The opportunities for students to get to know one another, ample space and time to problem solve, and a receptive audience for reporting back on progress all add up to a student experience that is both engaging and productive.
As a visiting administrator, I also found space for networking and further collaboration. I enjoyed contributing as a guide for the many student teams, and also learning from and chatting with other faculty and arts administrators from peer schools. a2ru summits are fertile grounds for creating relationships based on the arts and research, furthering important conversations about global issues using creativity and data as fuel, and seeding intellectual connections that at the least help inform future decisions and at best can help connect dots between important science happening throughout the academy.
Working in a bubble surely has its benefits, but venturing out, visiting other campuses, experiencing new research, and meeting like-minded people, all with the permission that the arts gives us to experiment, is a brilliant move and one I will continue to support.