One of my friends is studying astrophysics here at MSU. It’s always fun to catch up with each other because we have such different perspectives because of the contrast in what we’re studying. As we were walking across campus, we came across an art project that another student created by the Red Cedar River. It was a series of berries, flowers, sticks, and stones arranged with a note inviting others to add their own pieces or rearrange the artwork. She thought that the project was stupid. I suggested to my friend that we could add to the artwork, but I couldn’t convince her until we had walked a considerable distance away from the river. So, I convinced her to make our own instead.
After completing the artwork I explained the value that participatory public art can have for a community and the sense of ownership that develops from that level of engagement. My mini-lesson on art and engagement made her want to give me a mini-lesson about what she’s studying, so we went to the planetarium and watched a show. Our walk became an opportunity to give each other a taste of what we’re focusing on in our undergraduate studies. It was refreshing to interact with a STEM major in this way, which I hadn’t gotten to do since I was working on Project Re-stART with engineering majors. I think this sort of exchange is extremely important because knowledge shouldn’t be limited to what’s written on one’s degree. Just because my degree will read “Arts and Humanities” doesn’t mean that I can’t know about physics or coding languages, and just because her degree will read “Advanced Mathematics” doesn’t mean she can’t know about public art or the specifics of the English language. Specialization is important, but I think there’s something to be said for establishing a base knowledge in several distinct disciplines.