Unique pilot program to foster collaborations between artists and scientists
Program launched in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts to promote innovative new media works.
Posted by GRAND NCE, February 5, 2013

Filming of L'âme Soeur (Soul Mate) using a shoulder-mounted S3D Kernercam. CREDIT: Emily Carr University.
Filming of L'âme Soeur (Soul Mate) using a shoulder-mounted S3D Kernercam. CREDIT: Emily Carr University.

A new program jointly sponsored by the GRAND NCE research network and the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) offers exciting opportunities for Canadian artists and scientists to work together on innovative projects in the media arts. The program is based on a commitment shared by both organizations to build a constructive culture of exchange and partnership between the arts and sciences.

In the Canada Council's Media Arts Section, the “GRAND Media Artist and Scientist Collaboration” grants support cross-disciplinary projects that explore and develop leading-edge technologies and applications through artistic works. Projects will partner independent professional artists with principal researchers from the natural or social sciences in the creation of new artworks. In addition to their artistic and cultural contributions, project outcomes will contribute to peer-reviewed scientific research.

“Collaboration between science and art has been instrumental in advancing technology,” said GRAND Scientific Director Dr. Kellogg Booth. “The new partnership between the Canada Council for the Arts and GRAND continues this tradition by enabling individual artists to work with scientists while they explore aspects of digital media.”

A key partner in the collaboration between GRAND and the CCA was network investigator Catherine Richards, Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa and University Research Chair in Arts and Science. Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, Robert Sirman, and the Media Arts Section were also instrumental in developing an agreement with GRAND to successfully launch the program.

“To me, it’s a logical partnership,” said Richards, a pioneering visual artist whose work has been crossing over with the sciences for decades. Recently within GRAND’s MOTIVA project, Richards worked with researchers on the perceptual psychology and aesthetics of new imaging technologies such as stereoscopic 3D (S3D). From her past collaborations, Richards appreciates the mutual curiosity and interests of artists and scientists.

“There is a creative resonance between the arts and sciences – they spur each other on. Both are really intrigued with each other.  The scientist and the artist, I think, are often addressing the same issues, but go after them in different ways, and I find that difference healthy. Science is also extremely influential in our culture, particularly our image culture. From a visual arts point of view, I want to know all about that.”

For both Booth and Richards, the pilot project recognizes a longstanding dialogue between artists and scientists that has profoundly impacted Canadian culture.

“There's been a whole history in Canada of scientists working with artists, usually because of personal interest or personal chemistry. But it is extremely difficult [to form partnerships] if only one is funded or because the support systems are not there to bring them together,” said Richards. It has been the scientists and artists themselves who have seen these collaborations as invaluable.

She sees the new program as a model for overcoming these difficulties.  Equally co-funded by GRAND and the Canada Council, grants cover the direct costs of research, creative development, production and presentation of artworks created through media arts practices.

“What's really great about this program is that it brings the artist and scientist together as equals,” she added. Projects encourage a strong mutually beneficial partnership between artist and scientist.

For Booth, it is clear that GRAND and Canadian digital media research stand to benefit considerably from the pilot. By enabling exchanges between artists supported by the Canada Council with multi-disciplinary scientists in the network, he expects many new possibilities within digital media to develop.

“Canada Council has a long tradition of supporting both established and emerging artists who are at the leading edge in media arts. We believe the opportunities that the collaborative projects in this program provide will excite a uniquely Canadian response to the challenges we face in the digital age.”


GRAND is a federally funded Network of Centres of Excellence involving 25 universities and across Canada and more than 60 industry, government, and nonprofit partners. As a national research network, GRAND works to advance digital media research, training, policies and innovation in Canada, and to realize commercial opportunities for innovative research that generate social and economic benefits to Canadians.


Spencer Rose
Communications Officer