A Dive Into the Great Lakes Cycle

Scientific and Artistic Exploration of Paintings by Alexis Rockman

Explore our online multimedia electronic text/course to learn more about the images and ideas in The Great Lakes Cycle paintings.

The Full Package includes access to all SEVEN modules that explore the five main paintings in The Great Lakes Cycle as well as provide some background information on science and art intepretation.  Web technology allows you to zoom in on details in each of these complex paintings and then explore background materials at your own pace. Each module includes a series of relevant essays illustrated with photographs, art, drawings and maps. You will also find more than 30 short videos in the materials, including many interviews with Great Lakes specialists and even an interview with Alexis Rockman. Topics covered range from specific items in the painting (such as lake trout and Niagara Falls) to scientific concepts (invasive species, wetland loss) to artistic ideas (narrative storytelling) to history and culture (First Peoples, shipping and shipwrecks) and many more! There is a total of more than 30 hours of content. Note that access to the course requires internet access (the materials are not available as a download).


Imagery of the project


Click here to see samples of the modules:

A $50 subscription to this course gives access for 12 months. Access can be renewed for subsequent years for $25/year.

Access the FULL PACKAGE online here.


poster example

For educators - free posters!

Five large format posters of Rockman’s Great Lakes Cycle murals, with keys to the artwork, are also available for classroom use on a first-come, first-served basis. Each poster is 2' x 3' and includes a full color print of a painting with a line drawing key to the image (as in the sample below). Please contact biology@nmu.edu and ask about "Rockman educational posters."

The Great Lakes Cycle: Art + Science with Alexis Rockman

Increasing engagement in science through the window of art

Northern Michigan University is pleased to collaborate with artist Alexis Rockman and the Grand Rapids Art Museum to offer an online course based on Rockman’s paintings of the Great Lakes.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum commissioned Rockman to create The Great Lakes Cycle, an exhibition that celebrates the natural majesty and global importance of the Great Lakes while exploring how they are threatened by factors such as climate change, globalization, invasive species, mass agriculture and urban sprawl. The centerpiece is a suite of five mural-sized paintings depicting separate themes that emerged during his research tour of the region.

NMU is developing an online course based on The Great Lakes Cycle, designed for K-12 teacher education and classroom use, but also accessible to the general public in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Great Lakes. NMU biology professor Jill Leonard, art and design professors Taimur Cleary and Daric Christian, along with a team of undergraduate students, are developing the course with the idea that approaching the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through the arts may increase the engagement and understanding of students with a broader range of interests.

The course will consist of a series of short essays, videos and illustrations, focusing on aspects of the paintings, ranging from marine archeology and ecology to the history of hunting and fishing, Native Americans, natural resources and industry.

About the artist

American artist Alexis Rockman is known for his paintings of future landscapes depicting the impact of climate change, species extinction and evolution influenced by genetic engineering. He collaborated with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee on concepts for the Life of Pi film. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Camden Art Center in London and other galleries and museums around the world. Learn more and view his work at alexisrockman.net

Read the Northern Magazine article about the project.

Are you a member of NMU's Educational Access Network (EAN) already?

As a special gift, members of the EAN can access the module based on the first painting in the series, Cascade, free of charge as an EAN course. Interested in knowing more about the NMU Educational Access Network? Click here!