UW Trout Lake Station’s Drawing Water program brings artists and scientists together
Much of the work being done at UW- Trout Lake Station is research on different aspects of lake life.
There are studies on water quality, different fish species, and plant life.
The labs in the building are filled with samples from each.
By comparison, it makes the work being done in Ananda Van Wie and Sophia Sperduto's little studio out of place.
“This is what I’m working on currently,” said Van Wie while gesturing to a 3-D fish sculpture. It’s beige with black drawings on each scale.
“This is based off a lot of the processes they do with fyke netting and fish studies. All of the scales are individual prints. There’s about six different ones that show different processes and ways they interact with the fish once they are in the boat after the fyke net,” explained Van Wie.
At the desk kitty-corner from her, Sperduto has artwork of various mediums spread out.
“The charcoal piece is based on a bunch of tadpoles at a bog. There was a half-submerged dock they were swimming over. I really liked the visuals of that,” said Sperduto. “Then I have this little dragonfly over here that has a dragonfly nymph drawn in pink watercolor. The adult dragonfly is laid over the top of it with blue kind of showing metamorphosis or the memory of what it used to be.”
Sperduto and Van Wie are students at UW Stevens Point and UW Stout respectively.
They’re also two of the three student artists spending their summer at UW Trout Lake Station through the Drawing Water program.
For years, the Drawing Water Program was set up as an artist-in-residence program where professionals artists would come and draw inspiration from the setting and work being done at Trout Lake Station.
Last year, the program changed. It’s now set up more like an internship with three students from the UW System living at the station all summer to learn about science and create artwork.
Van Wie and Sperduto each wanted to join the program for different reasons.
For Van Wie, it was a chance to explore a different avenue outside her industrial and product design major.
“I guess all of my interest in sciences is more personal because I didn’t want to go a career that way, but I really love learning and I love spending a lot of time outdoors and touching things and actually working hands-on. I think that was a bring draw for this intersection,” she said.
For Sperduto, this was the perfect combination of both her majors: art and wildlife.
“The fieldwork has been super fun. I enjoy getting to do a bunch of projects with people and work on things I never would have had a chance to if it wasn’t for this summer job,” said Sperduto.
“Everyone here is really passionate too. It’s really fun to be around that energy and see everyone so excited about the work that they’re doing,” added Van Wie.
Each week they tag along with researchers in the field to learn more about the work being done and help with sampling.
They each have their own artist and science mentor to ask questions to and bounce ideas off of.
“I talk with my science mentor about the work that she’s doing and how that can influence. Then I talk with my art mentor about different techniques, and we take a lot of hikes together for inspiration and things like that. Just two different perspectives on the work that I’m creating,” said Sperduto.
Sperduto is working with Gretch Gerrish, Trout Lake Station’s Director.
Gerrish has a team working on studying the impact of the change in ice-off on lake life.
“So Sophia Sperduto is working with me and another science student Jumana Tanner to track to lakes all summer long. It’s been really fun to have her out with the crew every Friday doing the science, but it’s also cool to see the inspiration from that and how she’s interacting with the broader community to kind of cultivate her works,” said Gerrish.
Gerrish works with Sperduto to share idea. She says it goes both ways.
“To benefit the most there needs to be a back-and-forth exchange. I think science is often seen as empirical and logical, numerical. But there’s a ton of creativity in the scientific process and there’s also people and ecosystems and feelings that go into science. Even though it’s objective in some ways, I do think that art helps to bring out some of those elements,” said Gerrish.
Van Wie and Sperduto feel the same way.
With majors in both the arts and sciences disciplines, Sperduto said it’s comforting to see the connection between the two become more widely recognized.
“When I first declared by double major people were like, ‘Whoa, sure you want to do that?’ It’s been really cool talking with scientists or people interested in science and how impactful the art is for them. I’m really happy this program exists and we’re able to explore that connection a little more,” said Sperduto.
“I think there’s a lot more overlap than a lot of people think. They’re not as polar opposites as we’ve been taught our whole time growing up,” said Van Wie.
While their time at Trout Lake Station is winding down, the artwork of Van Wie, Sperduto, and of other students and mentors who have gone through the program will soon be made public.
A traveling exhibit of the artwork will start next year.
It’s a chance for people to take in pieces of art while learning about the science behind our natural world and how two seemingly opposite disciplines may have more in common than you think.