A Salon in the IRC

October 31st, 2013

In celebration of our 25th anniversary, the IRC and UMBC recently put on the ritz and hosted the second in an ongoing series of Salons at UMBC. These Salons are arts and humanities events designed to develop and strengthen relationships with cultural leaders and donors in the greater Baltimore area.



The IRC Salon focused on the cross-disciplinary intersection between art and science, highlighting the interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration among artists, researchers, industry partners, and students facilitated by our program.  It was co-hosted by UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski and his wife, Jackie, Elizabeth and John Linehan, and Elaine and Solomon Snyder.

“Our space and our brains are totally transformed; it’s like a science fair,” IRC associate director Lee Boot remarked, pointing to the eighteen past and present IRC projects on display, filling the IRC labs and lining the halls. Guests mixed and mingled among them, discovering, exploring, and interacting with SeeIntuit, USDemocrazy.com, Zoetrope Tunnel, NAS Dome Explorer, Symphony Interactive, Mapping Baybrook, and Visualizing Early Baltimore, to name a few, with IRC staff and students on hand to demonstrate and provide context for the projects.



After dinner and drinks, IRC director Dan Bailey and president Hrabowski welcomed our guests.  Associate director Lee Boot and special guests Liz Lerman, a choreographer, writer, educator, and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and JD Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs at the National Academy of Sciences, addressed the group on the subject of interdisciplinary collaboration and learning.


UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski (above) and IRC Director Dan Bailey welcome guests to the Salon.

President Hrabowski thanks Jane Brown of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation for their generous support over the last 10 years.


“My favorite thing to do in this ‘art and science’ space is to peruse the landscape of science and look for stuff that scientists discover, but might not think is that important at the time,” Lee shared. “I think my job as an artist is to try to create the sort of cultural connections to the unbelievable things that are discovered, so that they become part of who we are.”

“There’s a lot to say about what artists and scientists have in common: passion, inquiry, obsessiveness, a kind of delight in tedium… there are also things that separate us, and that’s very interesting too,” added Liz Lerman. “What has been so fabulous for me in the last decade that I’ve spent with scientists has been coming together and finding the joy in our commonality and pushing against each other when we don’t agree or when we are struggling with our methods… What is it that we have to give each other at this time, in universities like this, when we can let the windows between our laboratories open up?”


(L to R) Salon speakers Lee Boot, Liz Lerman, and JT Talasek


“Our structures of knowledge are very different than they used to be, and we need to find other places to find answers. Why would you continue to search for an answer if somebody in another discipline has the answer, or an answer?” asked JD Talasek.

“This is more than just a space,” president Hrabowski opined. “This speaks volumes about our appreciation of the intersection of arts and technology. It is wonderful, the way arts speak to people; you can do so much thinking about what the future will hold, who we are as human beings. What’s nice about UMBC is that we look to a variety of disciplines here on campus and others beyond the campus – in the corporate world, national agencies, and foundations – and ask How do you leverage the resources and all the brainpower of all those places in such a way that you create something that has not been created before?


Photos by Marlayna Demond