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Science is art too -- and you'll find it at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

University of Michigan scientists create, sell prints as "BioArtography"

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Pinks, oranges, and yellows dance together on a matted print where the colors of a sunset -- and science, and art -- come together in one unique creation. It’s scientific art -- or BioArtography.

And next week at Ann Arbor’s famous Art Fair, the images made by University of Michigan scientists will be for sale as decorative art that also shows the beautiful side of medical science.

Back in 2006, Deborah Gumucio, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., both professors in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, were trying to come up with a way to create a travel fund so that graduate students and trainees could attend meetings and give lectures throughout the country.

To do this, they melded art to science. After continuously marveling at the beauty of biology under the microscope, they realized that these scientific images were art and could be used as a way to raise funds. Last year, they were able to raise $4,000 and support eight young scientists..

But the program has turned out to be much more than a way to raise money. It helps educate the community.

“A backside plus is it turns out to be great outreach in terms of talking to the public about science and scientific careers, and even some of the controversies in science, like stem cells and the use of animals,” says Gumucio, a professor and founder of the U-M Center for Organogenesis.

The images used in the art aren’t only of stem cells. They are submitted from schools and departments all across the University of Michigan: the Medical School, School of Dentistry, biology departments in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and the College of Engineering. The contributions are also not just from faculty and staff – students, both graduate and undergraduate, send in submissions of images they’ve made in their research.

Only the best images are chosen to be sold. This year, there were around 80 entries. A panel of judges, which includes Gumucio and several local artists including Brad Smith, narrowed down that pool to around 25 prints that will be displayed and sold at this year’s Art Fair. One of the images this year, called Henrietta’s Legacy, shows cells called HeLa cells that are used in research on many diseases. The cells are descendants of ones obtained from a woman named Henrietta Lacks – whose role in medical research was the subject of a best-selling book in 2010.

Anyone can buy matted and framed prints, and meet some of those involved in making the images, in person from July 18-21 at Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair, one of the four fairs that make up the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Look for them on East University Street at Booth 155, between Willard and South University St..

Prints range in size from 5x7 inches to 16x20 inches, and the prices range from $45 to $225. Notecards, for the price of $15 for a pack of 10 assorted images, will also be available.

To learn more about BioArtography or order prints online, see the available images and this year’s judges, and order prints and notecards online, visit .

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Written by Rebeka Cohan


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