A (crude) mock-up of the Table-top Mathematics Lapidary Unit, by Elissa Ross and Patrick Ingram.
Get out your pocket protectors and strap on some safety goggles. This Saturday, Harbourfront Centre hosts the Too Cool for School Art & Science Fair, a showcase of forty-two unique exhibitions designed to please both your left brain and your right. Presented as part of Science Rendezvous and Harbourfront’s Fresh Ground new works commissioning program, the fair is structured like your Grade 7 gymnasium nerd-off—just don’t expect any baking soda Mount Vesuviuses.
The event was conceived and organized by local artist Sally McKay, who got the idea after visiting Maker Faire in the Bay Area. “It’s a little bit like Burning Man in that they have this huge area where people come. But it’s about people who like to tinker with things, just doing their projects and sharing them with each other. There’s this vast range of different types of stuff, and when I went there I was really, really inspired.”
As a Ph.D. candidate in neuroaesthetics (“like brain science and art together,” she says—and yeah, we didn’t know what that was either), McKay spends a lot of time thinking about how these two seemingly mutually exclusive disciplines relate. “The thing that art and science have in common is that they’re considered these elite spheres with experts—but they’re both things we use in our daily lives all the times. Everybody has some art in their life, if it’s stuff taped to the fridge or how they grow their garden. And science is the same. Even if it’s how you plan your day on transit, you’re thinking through problems in a scientific way.”
Libby Hague, from her work “Home-made Science Project.”
Fortunately, you don’t need to be well-versed in string theory or Renaissance painting to enjoy Saturday’s showcase. These projects stay well within the mandate of “cool,” whether it’s helium balloon feats of strength, sound art with bees, or table-top tar sand demonstrations. And the participants are similarly diverse, ranging from a Grade 12 chemistry class to retirees with a bit of mad scientist in their DNA.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a science fair without some atom-splitting competition. A panel of three judges from both the science and art worlds will be on hand to award the proverbial gold ribbons (read: sweet, sweet prizes). And no worries if you miss out on the poindexterism this time around: five of the exhibitors will be chosen for a special exhibition at Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Gallery this November.
The Too Cool for School Art & Science fair runs from 12–4 p.m. this Saturday, May 8, at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room.