Opening of the VISTA exhibition “Illustrations in Health” at LASM

Louisiana Tech University’s VISTA Center takes its show on the road – and in a big way.

The University’s Interdisciplinary Center for the Visual Integration of Science through Art (VISTA) at the University will host a year-long exhibit at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in Baton Rouge, August 13, 2022 through July 31, 2023.

The exhibit, “Illustrations in Health,” will feature approximately 60 pieces by 50 undergraduate technology students who have been part of the VISTA Center since its inception seven years ago. The objective of the exhibition is to inspire the public to understand the impact of illustrations on health sciences and medicine. It will include illustrations of physical, mental and community health, biomedical research and community engagement.

Tech and others will host events at the museum, and educational programs will be available for K-12 school visits and guest speakers throughout the year.

Tracey Barhorst, the Museum’s curator, said Illustrations in Health “will delve into the often overlooked work of medical illustrators. Medical illustrations provide insight into anatomical and physiological features that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to see. The illustrations help launch new scientific discoveries and advance knowledge about syndromes, diseases, viruses and health in general.

“In partnership with Tech’s VISTA Center,” she said, “LASM will mount an exhibit that explores visual representations of illnesses, everyday events, and life-saving research that affect the medical health of members of our community.”

An intentional blend of science and art, VISTA began as a collaboration between Nick Bustamante’s Faculty of Technology (Art), Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore (Biomedical Engineering) and Dr. Jamie Newman (Biology) as they brainstormed to illustrations for the presentation of a 2014-15 research publication. From this simple beginning, the fledgling program has grown to include more courses, a minor in pre-medical illustration (2017), a minor in scientific visualization (2018), and the current VISTA Center, which Bustamante and Newman run. co-directs, where Art, Science, and Engineering team faculty to provide students with a unique opportunity to communicate science, discovery, and medicine through art.

Over the past seven years, more than 150 art majors and nearly 70 STEM majors have participated in VISTA-related classes and community activities.

“I love seeing these kinds of innovative and impactful programs emerge from the collaborative efforts of our faculty members,” said Technology Chair Dr. Les Guice. “In addition to resulting in new courses and minors, this interdisciplinary collaboration between the Colleges of Applied & Natural Sciences (School of Biological Sciences), Liberal Arts (Studio Art & Graphic Design), and Engineering & Science (Biomedical Engineering) has given our students the opportunity to work with more than a dozen local, national and international partners, and students have created illustrations for published children’s books, health care posters, research publications and graphic summaries.

“Collaboration between art and science like this is unique, and as far as we know, there is no other undergraduate program like ours and certainly not one in Louisiana or the South “, Newman said. “Students pursuing the minor in pre-medical illustration will satisfy the graduate program application requirements to become a professional medical illustrator. The minor in science visualization provides more freedom for a student to explore the areas of art and science they are passionate about.

In early 2020, when the Museum – for the first time in at least 20 years – issued an open call for exhibition opportunities, VISTA submitted its application, went through a selection and interview process, and ultimately selected in what Bustamante, a veteran of how the art world works, knows is an “incredibly competitive process,” he said. “Being selected is a huge honor that reflects the professional quality of the work our undergraduates create.”

“People will find it fascinating to learn how these medical illustrations were created and shared,” said Beth Welch, 2015 Tech BFA graduate of Monroe, who was recently promoted from exhibitions coordinator to acting assistant curator at LASM. “We are very happy to share their story and how it has changed over the years.”

Bustamante and Newman won’t know precisely how many artworks and creators will be represented until they have organized the show, but a preview of the space in March when Newman was in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana STEM Summit left her “overwhelmed by the occasion.”

“With the space given to us,” she said, “we have an incredible opportunity to show what students who come to Louisiana Tech can participate in.”

VISTA will host an RSVP-only reception “to celebrate student creativity and innovation” in the program at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 23 at the Museum, 100 S. River Road, Baton Rouge. For more information and to RSVP, call 318.257.4287.

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