Science on Tap Explores 'Great Lakes Cycle'

Wednesday 4, 2017

NMU professors Jill Leonard and Taimur Cleary will present “A Positive Feedback Loop: Art, Science and Alexis Rockman’s Great Lakes Cycle” as part of the Science on Tap series. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company.

Leonard and Cleary will lead an interactive discussion about the integration of the arts with science. Using portions of Rockman’s Great Lakes Cycle paintings as focal points, they will lead a casual presentation that will encourage audience participation and creative thinking to reinforce the collaborative potential of science and art. The presentation is open to all, regardless of their science or art background. Admission is free.

Rockman is a renowned artist who is known for his paintings of future landscapes depicting the impact of climate change, species extinction and evolution influenced by genetic engineering. The Grand Rapids Art Museum will display an exhibition of his work in January 2018 that examines the past, present and future of the Great Lakes.

From Oct. 18-20, Rockman will be an artist in residency at NMU. Leonard and Cleary will coordinate the visit and have several activities planned. Learn more at

Leonard met with Rockman when he passed through Marquette on his research tour in 2014. They discussed her studies related to fish biology and more general information about the Great Lakes. Last spring, Leonard began preparing online educational materials to back up the paintings in preparation for Rockman’s NMU visit.

“I was obviously pretty familiar with the basic science concepts,” she said. “It’s been much more challenging to learn about the history and social science that shows up in the paintings. So I reached out to local experts, started reading completely different literature and really had to delve into some new areas. It has been a great learning experience.

"I am thrilled to embrace any approach that will help make science accessible. Art does this exceptionally well since it is visually arresting and allows the viewer to see things that may be challenging to see in the real world. What I love about the Rockman paintings is that they are just realistic enough to draw us into the natural world we recognize, yet stylistic enough to bring important concepts to the forefront.”

Jill Vermeulen
Student Writer