Visual ArtsSeptember 27, 2016

If you have kids, you probably know all about the term STEM. If not, the term references to the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM fully came into the mainstream around the middle of the last decade. The basis for it came from the idea that STEM involves the skills, such as computer knowledge, needed for the modern workforce.


More recently, there has been a movement to add arts into the mix, changing STEM to STEAM. The West Windsor Arts Council is currently presenting an exhibit that shows how art and science have more in common than you might think. The exhibit is called “STEAM Series: The Art of Discovery” and it runs until November 4, 2016.

This is the first in a series of annual STEAM-related juried art shows that will explore the relationships of each discipline with art and open up dialog and wonder related to the ways each informs the other.

When the Arts Council put out their open call for submissions, they asked: how are the three areas of science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) used in the making of art? How has art helped a scientist view their own work? How does the scientific process help artists view their work? And how does it enhance their work?

The focus of this exhibit is to present a visual expression of the scientist’s concept of work as art, as well as an artist’s work in mediums that open new, exploratory opportunities. In essence, it is to show how art and science have much in common.

One of the leaders in the STEAM movement is Ruth Catchen, a consultant who works on developing arts integrated curriculum programs, STEM and STEAM, for various schools, school districts and nonprofits. In her 2013 article, “Reflections ~ How STEM becomes STEAM”* she explained why art was an important aspect of science.


“Communication is an essential STEAM skill. You can have the greatest idea, but no one will know if you can’t clearly communicate it.”

Catchen went on to say, “STEAM is more than a concept or method. It surpasses words on a page. It must be visceral and physical. Its essence is experiential as those memories become burned in our minds and hearts. It is not important if you are right-brained or left brained or somewhere in between. Having learning experiences that involve a variety of the senses will be memorable. It creates the opportunity to take those experiences and learn from them and apply them to something new. That is how innovation and creativity happen.”

Andrew Zwicker, a physicist and Head of Science Education at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory (and a member of the NJ Legislature, representing the 16th Legislative District) would likely agree with Catchen. Zwicker, who served as the juror for the exhibit, is noted for blending art and science.

He and a collaborator won the University’s 2006 Art of Science competition for a photograph entitled “Plasma Table” and he is now a co-organizer. In 2012, Zwicker and a collaborator won an honorable mention for a video explaining a flame in a contest created by actor Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science at SUNY-Stony Brook.

Exhibiting artists in “STEAM Series: The Art of Discovery” include: John Aaen (Princeton, NJ); Julia Buntaine (Sunnyside, NY); Barbara Churilla (Newtown, PA); Robyn Ellenbogen (Shrewsbury, NJ); Jayme Fahrer (East Windsor, NJ); Sandra Koberlein (Woodstown, NJ); Bruce Lindsay (Trenton, NJ); Samantha Lish (Woodmere, NY); Eleni Litt (Princeton, NJ); Susan Mitrano (Titusville, NJ); Laurie Pettine (Morristown, NJ); Bill Plank (Lawrenceville, NJ); Lizzy Storm (Atlanta, GA); Michael Teters (Plainfield, NJ); Andrew Werth (Princeton Junction, NJ); and Ivia Yavelow (Ewing, NJ).


If you would like to see an art exhibit unlike any other, and one that will open your mind to the vast worlds of discover, be sure to check out “STEAM: The Art of Discovery” at The West Windsor Arts Council. The Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and on Saturdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm. All of the artwork is for sale.

Founded in 2002, the West Windsor Arts Council opened the doors of the West Windsor Arts Center in 2010 in the historic Princeton Junction Firehouse at 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, NJ 08550. For more information visit


*The STEAM Journal: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 22. DOI: 10.5642/steam.201301.22 

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About Author

Gary Wien
Gary Wien

Gary Wien is a music journalist from Belmar, NJ. A three-time winner of Asbury Music’s Music Journalist of The Year, his writing and photographs have been seen in publications like Upstage Magazine, Backstreets Magazine, Gannett Newspapers, and Princeton Magazine. He is the also the author of two books: "Beyond The Palace" (about the history of rock music in Asbury Park) and "Are You Listening?" (his picks for the Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists) and is the publisher of New Jersey Stage magazine.

  • Ruth Catchen

    Thank you for the mention and positive take on STEAM. So glad to learn of your work.