Competition combines art and science

Eric Debner

On a chilly Thursday afternoon, students from the ISU College of Art and Design braved the cold to meet their next-door neighbors in the ISU-based Biorenewables Research Laboratory.

Bioeconomy Institute researchers, faculty and staff welcomed the visitors with cups of hot chocolate and s’mores.

Dubbed the “S’mores Smash-Up,” Robert Mills, communication specialist III of the Bioeconomy Institute, said this event marks the beginning of the Bioeconomy Institute’s 4th Annual Biorenewables Art Competition.

The Smash-Up encourages interaction between artists and researchers.

While enjoying the hot treats, art and design students mixed and mingled with the researchers who presented a display in the Biorenewables Research Laboratory lobby. The display showcased the many different products produced from their work with biorenewable resources and technology, with emphasis on a process that rapidly heats biomass to extreme temperatures in the absence of heat, called fast pyrolysis.

“[The S’mores Smash-Up] is designed so the artists can meet the scientists researching biorenewables and learn more about them, their research, materials and processes,” Mills said. “It’s really the first step in the competition.”

Jill Euken, program director of the Bioeconomy Institute, said the Smash-Up provides an opportunity for the artists to take samples of biomass and biorenewable materials, such as biochar and algae, to incorporate into their art.

Martin Haverly, a graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering, said the Smash-Up helps the public connect and understand the designs and functions of biofuels through the artists’ work.

The Biorenewables Art Competition 2013 is open to ISU students enrolled in Integrated Studio Arts/Integrated Visual Arts (ISA/IVA) courses, Mills said. They may partner with any ISU student for the competition.

Students must submit their entries by April 14 in order to be eligible for the final review, whose results are announced on April 22.

Euken said the Bioeconomy Institute purchases the winner’s art for $750, and it is put on display in the Biorenewables Research Laboratory’s main office. The remaining entries are still displayed in the lobby and replace the art from the previous year.

Kyle Funderburk, senior in integrated studio arts, participated in last year’s competition. Funderburk submitted a collaborative work that currently sits in the Biorenewables Research Laboratory’s lobby. The piece incorporates biochar, algae and corn, depicting the state of Iowa and its strong relationship with agriculture.

“The materials that [researchers] are developing are materials everyone should pay attention to,” Funderburk said regarding the role biorenewable resources and technology play on maintaining and improving the environment.

The art competition benefits more than just the participants.

Bernardo Del Campo, graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering, said he’s interested to see how the artists will apply the concepts and possibly even biorenewable materials in their work. The competition will help the public learn more about biofuels through art, Campo said.