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MIAD students blend art and science in Wisconsin’s Northwoods

Bright, snowy woods.

Kemp Natural Resources Station 2024, MIAD Field Experiences course.

Since 2008, select students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) have taken a weeklong field trip many may find surprising – to Kemp Natural Resources Station in Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Up to eight students are selected for the Field Experiences intensive course, usually held in January, based on their interest and year at MIAD, and on interviews held in the fall with Science Professor Maurizio Murru and Adjunct Professor Paul Engevold. Despite being held during one of the coldest months of the year – January – both the course and space at Kemp are in high demand.

By the time they arrive at the Kemp Station (this year January 6), students have worked with faculty in the fall to select a research topic concerning either forests, lakes or rivers, and “have developed a strong background, hypotheses and predictions to shape their field research and experiments,” says Murru.

After collecting data at Kemp for three to four days, the students organize it and prepare short presentations for participants in Kemp’s outreach program, many of whom are retired biologists. They then make final presentations on their return to campus.

Cyprien Morin, a senior Illustration major who served as a TA on this return trip, said in an onsite interview with public radio wxpr, that the trip and science “makes all of my work turnout stronger.”

“I feel like as an illustrator, I can only create from my experiences. So even if in the moment I’m not doing comic or editorial work that’s related to this, I still now have a better understanding of the environment and the world around me and just how things function in the world.”

Sophomore Helena Sucero (Fine Art + New Studio Practice) is minoring in Natural Sciences. In the same wxpr radio interview, Sucero said, “I feel like my interest is very divided between arts and science. [S]cience is something I kind of incorporate into a lot of my artwork. Scientific illustration is something I’m … maybe pursuing….”

MIAD’s Natural Sciences minor was driven by student demand. Although science courses had been part of the curriculum, Murru says “the program started when he and Engevold came back to the science lab one day and found a petition taped to the door requesting the establishment of a minor.”

“Often, those that are taking these courses for the Natural Sciences minor use them as a stepping stone toward the senior thesis,” he says.

That’s just what Jenna Sedovic ’23 did. The Interior Architecture and Design and Illustration major also minored in Natural Sciences and began her career after graduation as a zoological designer for WDM Architects.

Similarly, Madeline Dall ’15 combined a love of Illustration with minors in Communication Design and Science. Initially an exhibit artist/designer at the Milwaukee Public Museum, Dall is now museum fabrication artist for Blue Rhino Studio.

Learn more about MIAD’s Natural Sciences program, and other minors, such as Sustainability.


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Metalwork and molds: MIAD alum on Kohler Residency

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December 31, 2023
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April 27, 2024
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June 1, 2024
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