The Physical Sciences Building isn’t the first place on campus most people would think of to see a contemporary art installation.But it’s where you must go to see “Motors Surround Us,” an unusual collaboration between a UC Santa Cruz physics lecturer, her students, and community artists.
The striking 6-foot-tall exhibit features a cyclone strung with white lights shooting out of a large globe. Underneath, trains make their way around a track. Mixed in throughout are dozens of small motors created by physics students.
Physics lecturer Stephanie Bailey, a nuclear physicist by training, conceived the idea to help bridge the gap between science and art and to foster creativity among her students.
She said her colleagues were a bit skeptical at first but were open to the idea and fully supportive.
“A number of them commented they had never seen anything like this and they weren’t sure what to expect,” Bailey said.
The motors were created by students in her introductory class on electricity and magnetism for non-physics majors. Artists Amy Buntyn Steinberg, Laura McHugh, and Richard Smith volunteered their assistance in answer to a post on a Facebook artists’ page submitted by Bailey. The artists then figured out how to put the motors together in a stimulating way.
The title for the installation came from Bailey’s idea to highlight how ubiquitous motors are in everyday life—from electric toothbrushes, blenders to hair dryers and wall clocks.
Steinberg said it was interesting to see how different each of the student-created motors were. Some were very simple with just some cardboard, a battery and magnet, while others were much more elaborate and involved unusual items like a jewelry box and a flower pot. “It was super fun to see how creative the students were,” she said.
Steinberg was excited about the chance to collaborate with other artists …