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Artists, scientists team up

Quark Park in Princeton to show connection between the 2 fields
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

PRINCETON -- In the coming weeks, 12 teams composed of local scientists and artists will be working to temporarily transform a vacant lot behind the Hulfish Street parking garage into a garden housing original artwork inspired by scientific theories.

The 15,000-square-foot area between Witherspoon and Chambers streets, to be christened "Quark Park," will be open to the public from July 15 into the fall.

The volunteer lineup is an eclectic bunch, including molecular biologists, mathematicians, engineers and geologists, in addition to renowned sculptors and architects.

"Because the Princeton area has such extraordinary richness in scientific talent, we wanted to entice the scientists to come out of their labs and meet the world of art," said Kevin Wilkes of the Princeton Design Guild, who collaborated with local landscape architects Alan Goodheart and Peter Soderman to develop Quark Park.

"There will be both an element of delight and education intertwined in each exhibit," said Wilkes, who is working with Princeton University computer scientist David Dobkin on designing Quark Park's enclosed stage area, which will eventually feature concerts, lectures, symposiums and other community events.

Palmer Square Management has donated use of the property for the rest of the year, before it begins building its residential project in 2007.

Robert Goldston, the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, said he hopes to educate adults and children about fusion energy through the piece he will be constructing with sculptor Rein Triefeldt.

Goldston's current work in creating artificial solar energy and Triefeldt's experience with solar-powered kinetic art will serve as the inspiration for their design.

According to Goldston, among the possibilities for their exhibit is the creation of a playground slide that would artfully mimic the twists of a magnetic configuration thought to more successfully control plasma. "We would like to build a meaningful sculpture that brings awareness to the connection between art and science because they are definitely related," said Triefeldt, whose creations have been featured at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Sculptor Jonathan Shor hopes his exhibit about the workings of acoustics will help highlight the similarities between the realms of art and science.

"Once we let go of our own egos as artists and scientists, we can see that the two are in many aspects the same," Shor said.

Shor will be collaborating with music synthesis and pyschoacoustics expert Perry Cook and David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group to create a type of giant granite xylophone that would allow viewers to make their own unique music.

Princeton University President and molecular biologist Shirley Tighlman, who has teamed up with sculptor Nancy Cohen and electrical engineer Jim Sturm in order to build a 15-foot-high artwork that will illustrate the mechanics of the human sense of smell, hopes Quark Park will remind viewers that "good science is about creativity."

"Both the human endeavors of art and science begin with creative instinct," Tighlman said. "The Quark Park is about marrying the two."


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