How it S+ARTed

Create something amazing.

It all goes back to 2011.

The adoption of the Palmerston North City Council Arts Strategy as a guiding document provided an opportunity to think about a point of difference for Palmerston North.

Axel de Maupeou, the then City Cultural Coordinator, contracted Bette Flagler to develop a concept that would build on the strengths of the city and region. Having trained as a scientist, Bette was impressed by the scientific and technological research strengths of the region; as a writer, she was attracted to the area’s artistic depth.

Globally, there are several institutions that specialise in science-technology-art collaborations. Many of these are associated with universities and Palmerston North is home to Massey University’s Manawatu campus.

The time was right, believed Axel and Bette, for a centre for science-technology-art in Palmerston North. Cathy McCartney, PNCC Manager, Community Engagement and Anthony Lewis, PNCC General Manager, Community Services, agreed.

On 13 December 2011, a group of artists, scientists and creative thinkers gathered at Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History to explore how Palmerston North might create a national centre where science, technology and art could converge to create new insights into all three and the wider world. The guest speaker was Ionat Zurr PhD, artist, curator, researcher and academic coordinator of SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia.

Here’s a story that was in The Manawatu Standard about the night.

A follow-up meeting held in February 2012 showed that there was enough collective will to develop the concept further. A feasibility study was completed by Janet Ellery and Bettina Gohl through PNCC Community Engagement. Commitment was made from PNCC Community Services to support the development of a national centre for science, technology and art collaborations.

In March 2013, S+ART was awarded $10,000 per year for three years through the city’s Community Funding Fee For Service programme. The majority of this funding was used for the development and awarding of the S+ART Grants 2014 – 2016 and the S+ART festival.

S+ART, the Science, Technology and Arts Trust of New Zealand

S+ART became an independent project in early-2012 and was registered with the Charities Commission on 16 November 2012.

The founding trustees were (L-R) Alan Anderson, Bronwyn Zimmerman and Anthony Lewis.

Bette Flagler joined the Trust in mid-2012 and became its first Chair in June, 2013. She held this position until March, 2017.

S+ART’s earliest artworks

In 2012, artist Fran Dibble created With the power to move mountains and carve valleys. The installation was described by Zimmerman Contemporary Art Gallery as “…a contemporary outworking of both scientific knowledge and artistic perspective.” The installation travelled around Palmerston North and enjoyed placement at Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, the Palmerston North airport and Massey University.

Please read more about the installation in the June 2012 Zimmerman Gallery newsletter.

In 2013, S+ART received the gift of a transient artwork from Fran Dibble. She wrote:

It is a lovely demonstration of the amazing processes that happen all around us. You could call it a “leaf-o-gram”, as it does cross over, in basic principal, with the photographic process. It utilizes the ability of leaves to turn sunlight into the storage compound starch.

The method is that a stencil is first cut out of black paper. This is sandwiched around a growing bean leaf (a bean leaf was selected in part as it is not overly fibrous but also as an acknowledgement to Mendel) at the end of the day. This time is selected so that the leaf first gets a dark period of night to use up any starch in the leaves before exposure to light. Mid-afternoon on the following day the leaf is excised from the plant and boiled in chloroform: methanol mixture to get rid of the green chlorophyll in the leaf. It is then immersed in potassium iodide / iodine reagent which stain starch, so showing the applied pattern, here, as I hope you can see – your logo.

Wind orchestra design contest

In 2013, S+ART ran a school competition to design wind-powered musical instruments. The winner was Palmerston North Girls’ High student Adeela Razali who designed a lotus flower that opened and played music in response to the wind.

The competition was a precursor to the S+ART Grants which were launched in 2014.

S+ART Prize

In 2012 and 2013, S+ART offered an award at the Manawatu Science and Technology Fair (MSTF) that most clearly reflected the philosophy of science and art collaborations.

In 2014, S+ART refined the award criteria and named the award the S+ART Prize.  Three prizes of $100 each were offered, one each to Primary, Intermediate and Secondary students.  The judges reserve the right to not award the prize if, in their opinion, no projects meet the criteria.

In 2014, the Secondary Award was won by Phillip Prinsloo from Horowhenua for his project “Ruben’s Curve.” Phillip developed a Ruben’s tube to measure sound waves incorporating flames – what he created was a visual display which responds to music. Charlotte McKinlay from Carncott School won the Intermediate Award for her project Equine Eye Savers. She developed a really creative solution to rehabilitate horses after eye surgery with an existing product – a bra!

In 2015, one S+ART Prize was presented to William Leong from Palmerston North Intermediate Normal for his project “What’s that Rhythm” for which he designed an app to set a rhythm which would to help him learn to play guitar.