How Art Made My Science Better and Science Made My Life Better


I grew up in a house filled with crayons, construction paper, watercolor paint, paper grocery bags, and costume trunks. My sister and I would make clothes for our dolls, draw, glue tissue paper to almost anything, and color endlessly. Arts and crafts were our regular pastime, but I now know that a creative outlet grows the imagination. Those hobbies allowed us to dream and express ourselves. 

When I was young, my parents made sure we took art classes, dance classes, and participated in sports. We learned to cook and bake. We sat in the garage with dad and learned how to hammer nails into 2x4s. We helped mom glue seashells onto mirror frames. We scoured the thrift stores for goods in need of a little refurbishment. Their theory was that they didn’t know what we would want to be when we grew up, so we should be exposed to a little of everything- and that “everything” was mostly artistic. Whatever we didn’t like, we could quit after a full season (if you start it, you finish it, they said). And whatever we did like, we were encouraged to explore further.  

A funny thing happens when you’re creating and doing art projects. You learn about symmetry. You learn about flow. You learn about balance. In our own way, we were overcoming obstacles every time the red paint ran out, or the construction paper tore. We met the challenges of the sewing machine jamming and the wood scraps being uneven. We measured things. We drew diagrams first. We asked for help and shared opinions on each other’s work. 

In high school, I found that science classes weren’t much different than the art we were doing at home and in summer courses. The motion I studied in physics was just like the motion I learned in dance classes. The growth process of plants was a building block issue, just like sewing a dress from scratch. The alignment of planets was always illustrated with balls and strings- things we had done numerous times with paper mache and rope in our own basement, back yard, and dining room table, not to mention basketball, softball, and volleyball practice. And just like that, my love of art became my love of science. 

Getting a science degree in college was not necessary in my pursuit of a military and aviation career. But it certainly helped MY studies. I know other people who had just as much (or more) success with their backgrounds in the arts, management, or had no college degree. Science was interesting to me, though, and it allowed me to understand processes, equations, and aerospace. Having the freedom to choose my path was much easier because of my background in the arts AND sciences. 

Today I know that no one is defined by their career or their field of study. Life is made up of interesting people doing interesting things in interesting times. If we’re to have a prosperous future, we need to have smart people, especially smart women, working on the technologies and processes of the future, the governments of the future, and the global agricultural and economic prosperity of the future. And smart people aren’t the ones who got A’s in school- they’re the ones who have a passion for their field. They are inspired by their craft and inspire the next generation. I think if you’re going to be this interesting, you probably ought to have made good choices about your work. For me, that meant arts and science. 

This article was first published for Abingdon Foundation, February 2, 2020.

#art #science #growthmindset #boundaryless