ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This week, the streets of downtown Ann Arbor will fill with art lovers, perusing the wares offered at hundreds of artists’ booths at the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair.
But at one booth down on East University Avenue, the “artists” have day jobs: they are research scientists. And the images they create aren’t just beautiful – they come from laboratory studies that might save lives.
The vibrant prints and notecards for sale at the booth all bear images made by University of Michigan medical research teams. Taken through microscopes or scanners, each one brings the hidden worlds of cells and the inner body to life.
The program is called U-M BioArtography, and it’s run by the Center for Organogenesis with participation from more than 200 faculty and staff in nearly every U-M Medical School department and four other U-M schools and colleges.
Every year, new images are chosen by a jury of artists and scientists for their combination of abstract beauty and scientific truth, and unveiled at Art Fair.
At the Art Fair, the team will offer small and large prints of more than 20 colorful images, as well as notecards sold individually or in packs of 9. The booth is #112 of Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair, on E. University between Willard and S. University.
Prints and notecards are also available online at www.bioartography.com, where shoppers can choose from more than 200 images. But online shoppers won’t have the authentic Art Fair experience of blazing heat, torrential rain and the risk of impalement by tourists carrying sharp-ended garden art.
Another winner of the juried 2014 BioArtography competition is "Branching Out" by Greg Dressler, Ph.D., a professor in the Medical School's Department of Pathology. It shows the structures of a developing mouse kidney, grown in a laboratory dish to allow scientists to study how cells communicate with one another as the organ develops. The bright orange areas show the cells that will become nephrons - the devices that allow kidneys to filter the blood.
Each BioArtography item comes with an evocative title, a description of the research that generated the image, and the name of the artist/scientist who created it.
Proceeds from the sale of the scientific art go to an important purpose: paying the way for young scientists to travel to conferences where they can present their findings and make important career connections.
“In a time of budget cuts for scientific grants, these dollars are needed more than ever,” says Deborah Gumucio, Ph.D., the cell biologist, professor and center founder who helped develop BioArtography. “More than 80 U-M graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have been awarded travel funds from the pool of revenues built up over the last eight years.” Gumucio is interim chair of the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at the Medical School, and holds the James Douglas Engel Collegiate Professorship.