Heard on Campus: Dean Korner on blending art and research to change lives

June 20, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Barabara Korner, dean of Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture, recently implored members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to collaborate across disciplines and bring together the arts and the sciences to maximize the impact that university research can have in people’s lives.

“Too often the arts are considered useful methods of communication and we’re brought in at the end of the research project to visualize the data, or to translate that data," Korner said. "However, I’ve been hammering away at the notion that if science researchers bring artists and designers to the table at the beginning, they will find that these creatives will ask new questions, will explode those questions and explode that research wide open, and will lead to new directions and new discoveries.”

Speaking to the APLU’s Council on Research on June 18 in the Millennium Science Building as part of the 2019 joint meeting with the APLU Commission on Economic and Community Engagement, held this year on Penn State's University Park campus, Korner explained her view that artistic endeavors and scientific research are two sides of the same life-changing coin. Korner was joined by Paul Shrivastava, Penn State’s chief sustainability officer and director of the Sustainability Institute, and Scott Slovic, University of Idaho professor of literature and environment, on a panel on arts, humanities and social sciences in the research enterprise.

Korner concluded her address with an illustration of how art can change an individual’s life and spark a lifelong love of learning and self-expression.

“Imagine: a dancer goes in and does a workshop in inner-city Philadelphia. And in that workshop, there’s a ten-year-old kid who lives in great poverty: drug addictions, older siblings involved in gangs, and he seems to have no hope,” Korner said.

“But that kid gets in that workshop, and suddenly being able to move in space and understanding the expression his body is capable of, he gains a new level of confidence, physically, that then begins to transfer to cognitive skills he didn’t even know he had. That kid gets surrounded by a group of people, by a community, of artists who practice what they do, and suddenly, over time, that child is able to break that cycle that he is a part of.

"He gets through high school, he goes to college, and maybe he becomes a dancer, but it’s just as likely he’s going to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or a teacher — a career that’s going to touch a lot of lives.”

Last Updated June 20, 2019