Insight and Exchange: An evaluation of the Wellcome Trust's Sciart programme
In 1996, the Wellcome Trust launched the Sciart funding programme in response to a growing field of artists embarking on interdisciplinary practice in conjunction with scientists. The original aim of the scheme was to fund visual arts projects that involved an artist and a scientist in collaboration to research, develop and produce work that explored contemporary biological and medical science.
Over ten years, Sciart supported 124 projects funding £3 million worth of awards. The scheme is considered by a range of people involved in the arts and science sectors to have been integral in supporting the development of a unique community of practitioners, a new form of interdisciplinary practice, and a body of artistic work relating to science, as well as having a significant influence on the public's engagement with science. However, much of the evidence of its long-term impact was previously anecdotal and undocumented.
Following the closure of the scheme in 2006 and the launch of the new Arts Awards scheme, the Trust commissioned the Engine Room at University of the Arts to independently document the legacy of the programme and consider the long-term impact of the scheme and its funded projects to help influence future strategy for the Trust's new arts programme.
The aims of the research were to:
- evaluate the impact the programme has had on the arts community and artistic practice
- gain an understanding of the impact Sciart has had on the scientists involved
- evaluate the impact the scheme has had on the public’s engagement with science
- research the influence the programme has had on the wider field of arts and science.
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As part of the research, a number of case studies were compiled about projects funded through the Sciart scheme. Examples of some of these studies are shown below.
Phoebe Von Held worked with scientists to develop to develop a dramatisation of Denis Diderot's 18th-century text 'D'Alembert's Dream', which envisages the cosmos as a delirious universe of scientific speculation and metaphor.
Artists Michael Pinsky, Neil Bromwich and Zoe Walker developed an evolving and expandable travelling artwork designed to function as a universal cure-all for social, economic and political ills. The artists collaborated with Dr Mark Downs, a specialist in commercial drugs testing, to develop a suitable method to monitor the efficacy of their endeavour.
Film director Josh Appignanesi collaborated with Bradford Dementia Group in producing 'Ex Memoria', a short narrative film exploring the experience of dementia as embodied in Eva, a resident in a care home.