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Nature's Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design

Exhibit Dates: February 3 - March 15, 2023

In an age of complex environmental challenges, why not look to the ingenuity of nature for solutions? The forms, patterns, and processes found in the natural world—refined by 3.8 billion years of evolution—can inspire our design of everything from clothing to skyscrapers. This approach to innovation, called biomimicry, is becoming increasingly popular. Nature’s Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design opens February 3, 2023 at the Littleton Museum.

The exhibition Nature’s Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design brings together art and design with environmental science using artifacts, artworks and photography, as well as interactive learning stations.

Biomimicry is not a novel idea; Gaudi and Da Vinci both took inspiration from nature. Modern science and technology, however, are rapidly expanding the types of materials and systems we can create. Bird wings. Spiderwebs. Rainbow Trout. These have inspired design improvements that enable faster travel, safer bridges, and more effective wind turbines. Similarly, biomimicry in art is a process that entails exploring the material properties, cycles, and dynamics of nature, and how whole biological systems are structured—and putting that into works of art. Artworks and designs that are rooted in the laws and forms of nature can address pressing issues, such as conservation, sustainability, and environmental justice. They can also spark an interest in, and connection with, nature.

This exhibition is aimed to encourage discourse among audiences of all backgrounds as our understanding of the natural world can lead to some extraordinary creations that improve lives and reduce our impact on the environment. Nature’s Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design is an adaptation of the High Desert Museum’s Innovation Lab: Design Inspired by Nature, and is produced and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

About ExhibitsUSA
This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than twenty-five exhibitions on tour to over 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email MoreArt@maaa.org or visit www.eusa.org.

About Mid-America Arts Alliance
Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. Additional information about M-AAA is available at www.maaa.org.

Below the Surface

image of a rock with a mining pick in it

Below the Surface: How Mining Altered Colorado's Social and Cultural Landscape

Exhibit Dates: July 14, 2023 – October 27, 2024

Opening Reception: Thursday, July 13, 2023 at 5:30 pm

 

Mining for precious metals and other resources exploded in the Colorado Territory in the 1860s. There are rather romanticized notions of people braving the Wild West to seek out fortunes, striking gold and making a rich and fruitful life for themselves. While there are certainly success stories, there are many examples of struggles and failures, and the reality is more nuanced.  The people that came to the region in search of gold and silver did not arrive to an empty and unutilized setting. The region had a rich geological and cultural landscape, with beautiful and diverse flora and fauna. There were Indigenous people living both permanently and seasonally in the region who were connected to the land, utilizing it for food, shelter, and to support their culture.  

Encounters between settler fortune-seekers and Native Americans did not immediately result in conflict. There was a period of co-existence while concessions were made to allow for both groups to access the land for their respective needs and desires. Ultimately, the greed for more land and greater access led to increasing hostility, followed by battles, treaties, and eventually the restriction of Native lands and the relocation of Indigenous tribes.  

The instances of individual miners “staking a claim and making it rich” began to thin as investors from the East bought up smaller mines and corporate conglomeration of the mining industry began. New technology and modes of transportation facilitated an expansion of the industry, and it became a dangerous and exploited business with those who risked the most earning the least, and those that never set foot in a mine reaping the rewards. Tensions escalated between laborers and mine owners, resulting in strikes and a fight for better working conditions and higher wages. 

Below the Surface is an exhibit that aims to dig deeper and tell the real historical stories of the gold, silver, and coal mining rushes in Colorado. Visitors will find that the development of the mining industry in this region altered the course of its history, creating opportunity for some and difficulty for others. Despite the challenges, failures, and deaths, mining provided a chance for people to make a new life, and for new businesses to emerge. The direct result wasn’t always positive, but some wonderful things came to be, in one way or another, because of mining. It is important that we tell the sad stories to honor and mourn that which was lost. This exhibit also celebrates the perseverance of those who did not strike it rich, or who suffered at the expense of mining, but whose grit allowed them to forge on, becoming a part of the evolving social and cultural landscape that is Colorado.    

Visitors to this exhibit will learn about the geology of the region and different types of mining. They will experience artifacts from some of the Indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the area. Moreover, they will follow the progression of the mining industry from small, one-off claims to large corporate expansion, and the cause-and-effect relationships that occurred throughout mining’s development. Lastly, they will learn about individuals with lesser-known stories who came to the region in search of riches and found their unique version of success. In addition to artifacts, maps, and timelines, visitors can watch short films that present the story of mining in several towns in Colorado. There are many interesting and educational things to see in this family-friendly exhibit.