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As AstroFest Takes a Bow In Pasadena, A Look at Technology, The Arts and the Whole of Their Parts

Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 | 5:13 am
A work exhibited at Pasadena's Andor Gallery, whose owner/director Paul Slocum as one foot in the sciences and the other in the art world.

AstroFest, a weeklong celebration of all things out-of-this-world-from planetarium shows to art displays, robotics and beyond-has just ended and left its defining mark on Pasadena, home to JPL, Caltech, and some rather prominent art galleries and landmarks. While those may seem like separate worlds, the arts and the sciences often intersect and have grown together to make the Rose City a vibrant home to both.

Maggie Hendrie

Maggie Hendrie, the chair of interactions design at ArtCenter College of Design and a designer and strategist for new technologies, said the crossroads between art and technology occur first at the student level.

“We work with students who are finding jobs in the industry where they’re designing AI (artificial intelligence.) Not just programming it, but designing. it. That’s something that didn’t exist five years ago, let alone 20,” Hendrie said.

Just as artists use different mediums to conduct their art, the same artists also make significant contributions to science in the form of drafting, design, and user experience. As JPL and Caltech undertake various projects, from Earth-bound inventions to outer space missions, artists have a hand in propelling science forward, and science, in turn, moves art to greater heights.

Robert Crouch

Robert Crouch, executive and artistic director for Fulcrum Arts (formerly, the Pasadena Arts Council), says that while there’s a symbiotic relationship between art and science, it isn’t always a smooth ride.

“I think people wrestle with new tech and new art forms as they take different directions,” he said. “We used to go to the store, and now things come to us. Even the act of leaving your home and spending time in the world with other people is potentially diminished because we have the ability to not do that.”

So, according to Crouch, there’s an adjustment period.

“I think a lot of artists are actually adapting and making it work by taking advantage of these new technologies in ways that they think are interesting. Besides, there are still people behind this—they are still human minds behind the ways in which these changes are happening,” he said.

Paul Slocum

Paul Slocum, the owner/director of Pasadena’s Andor Gallery, has one foot in both worlds. Andor is home to computer and technology-based art.

Slocum believes art is evolving, in part because artists are aware that they have a relationship to the internet, for better or worse.

“Everything we do is going to be photographed and put on the internet,” he said. “And I think the new abilities to fabricate and print (in 3D) have a big effect on art.”

Slocum insists technological advances have made art more accessible.

“Early on, very few people had access to it (tech). It’s interesting to think about the first designers of video games at MIT labs in the 60’s. It seems kind of hard to say these guys are artists. Now everybody has access to all that stuff,” he said. “It’s amazing to see what anybody can do with access to affordable 3D printing and any kind of computer music. You can have an entire studio in your laptop that fits in an envelope.”

Hendrie concurs, saying art and science have more in common than you’d think and the possibilities for advancement in both fields is endless.

“They (artists and scientists) both have a vision of something, and they build the tools to make it happen.Young people are designing new technologies, designing with new technologies and designing in partnership with people who are crafting new technologies.There’s a whole spectrum. I think, frankly, it’s an exciting time to be in Pasadena.”

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