How many times have you heard “evolutionary theory” and “Romantic period violin” in the same sentence? Probably not many, and that’s the kind of issue Arts on Earth aims to address.

Arts on Earth is an ambitious, multidisciplinary program that originated with the deans of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance; the School of Art and Design; the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the College of Engineering. With the goal of connecting the arts to the community of a research-based university, the deans came up with a program that explores how the arts interact with the way we think both as individuals and as a culture.

The program sponsors a wide range of events, starting with today’s “learning studio” at the Duderstadt Video Center, which addresses the relationship between arts and evolution. Other events include a performance by University alum Pat Oleszko, a renowned artist, which is today at The Michigan Theater. All the events are intended to encourage “arts-driven inquiry,” said Theresa Reid, the managing director of Arts on Earth.

It’s an effort on a grand scale.

“We want to know how the arts teach us to think differently,” Reid said. “I don’t think it’s been done anywhere else.”

She’s speaks of the wide array of scientists, scholars and artists who’ve committed to making the endeavor successful. These include Jon Deak, associate principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic, Oleszko and professors from Argentina, Yale University and the University of Michigan. The academics’ disciplines include philosophy, music and neuroscience. The mingling of these diverse fields is exhibited in events like the “learning studio.”

One of the strengths they hope to emphasize is the involvement of those who attend the studio. There will be no audience, per se. Instead, every person who attends will be encouraged to play an active role in discussing and building ideas about, say, how the arts affect us morally. Reid emphasized the programs are not lectures but investigations – we don’t necessarily have the answers, but we certainly are looking for them.

Arts on Earth

The following events are at the Duderstadt Video Center – and they’re all free.


Arts and Evolution

9 a.m. to Noon

Why does virtually every human culture produce art? How do the arts aid our survival?

Arts and the Brain

1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Arts & Health

9 a.m. to Noon

Can engagement with the arts promote physical, emotional and mental health in individuals? In societies?

Arts & Conscience

1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

What are the powers and limits of the arts to shape us morally?

Go to for complete details.

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