Feel the Synergy

When Museum of Art director Mark Bessire calls an exhibition “fully synergized” he’s not just slinging buzz. The winter exhibit The Body Holographic, by holography pioneer Harriet Casdin-Silver, was the first fully paid for by the College’s Synergy Fund. And the exhibition fully realized the intention of the fund established by Bates friend Leander Smith: to explore how the arts can harmonize with other disciplines.

Self-portrait by Harriet Casdin-Silver, 1999.

Casdin-Silver was a natch. Her themes speak to issues in women and gender studies as well as art, and her medium — laser-light photography that simulates three-dimensionality — engages students of physics as well as photography. In fact, on one February evening Bates physicist Hong Lin and British holography artist Pearl John each gave a museum lecture and then sat around trading notes. And Lin helped set up a temporary holography studio for John’s workshops.

The goal of closer curricular partnership also led to the renovation of the former, inauspiciously named Lower Gallery. Gorgeous new paint and furniture, and closely defined functions, now distinguish its spaces: a library area, the Collection Gallery for longterm exhibitions, and the Synergy Seminar Space for classes and close-up work with art from the collection.

Improved access to the collection is another goal, says Bessire. “Until we can make it easy for people to use and see what we have, we’re really not doing our job.”