What comes to mind when you think of the Oregon coast?
Is it cold? Cozy? Dangerous? Majestic?
Michael Bendixen of Oregon Field Guide (OFG) believes that our special sea is “something to be explored and shared.” The scientists, artists, industry professionals, business owners and other Oregon ocean enthusiasts that gathered at the recently held State of the Coast conference would probably agree with Bendixen.
These different stakeholders from our community came together with a common goal to understand how we can better communicate the coast using art and science. Several speakers, graduate student presentations, and artist displays revealed the beauty and importance of our murky waters. The rough waters off our coast are teeming with life, drama, mystery, and stories that demand our attention.
As the keynote speaker, videographer and journalist Michael Bendixen addressed how to connect the public with the science that is shaping our understanding of Pacific Northwest beaches as well as the challenges surrounding how to communicate broader topics like ocean acidification and climate change. His approach bridging art and science in facing these issues can be applied across disciplines and is just one more example of how the arts and humanities are bringing science to the people. Bendixen spoke of how OFG crafts powerful stories that engage audiences and manage to skillfully balance entertainment and excitement with knowledge and scientific understanding—a noble pursuit that can unite us in our efforts to take better care of this planet we inhabit.
The State of the Coast conference’s effort to together scientists and artists was perfectly exemplified by Kyle Asfahl and Amanda
Salov. Attendees were inspired by Kyle and Amanda’s love story inspired, and even more intrigued by the romantic story they
weave of their shared passion to marry the abstract concepts found in the pursuits of art and science. Kyle, a PhD candidate in
OSU’s microbiology department, is also an artist who explores the fundamental multicellularity and cooperation found in all levels of life. His art seems to represent his curiosity with what it is like to be a bacterium. Amanda, an independent artist, spoke to us about how the ocean changed her practice dramatically. Since being in Oregon she has transitioned from creating objects ‘outside’ of herself to composing structural art that reflects the understanding that she is of nature; nature and science inspired pieces come from ‘within’ her. Amanda and Kyle’s relationship and shared journey beautifully reflect how compelling the partnership between disciplines, personalities, and perspectives can be in communicating scientific and environmental concepts.
This year’s State of the Coast conference was a tremendous experience and an impressive addition to the continued efforts to link the arts, humanities, and sciences.