Symposium: Art + Math =

The Arts Extension Service’s Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative is excited to partner with the University Museum of Contemporary Art on the Museum’s upcoming symposium, Art + Math =. The symposium will take place on Monday, April 1st from 1:00pm to 5:30pm in the John W. Olver Building (Lecture Hall 170) on the UMass Amherst Campus. The afternoon Symposium connects to a yearlong series of exhibitions at UMCA about the intersection of art and math, including: Xylor Jane Counterclockwise; Terry Winters: Facts and Fictions; The Concinnitas Portfolio, curated by Daniel Rockmore; and Pau Atela’s (Re)Creations and MathStudio.

This symposium and accompanying concert will provide an engaging platform for public discussions that bridge the disciplines of art and math and celebrate the innovative work by those influenced by these fields. The symposium will highlight the connection between art and science while recognizing the gender disparities in the male-dominated art world and STEM fields. The presenters, from a diverse range of disciplines including; quantum physics, education, economics, biology, music, studio arts, and architecture, will discuss their respective fields and the connections among them. Symposium topics will include “Computers in Creative Disciplines”; “Women in Their Fields”; and “What is Beauty? From Line to Finished Composition”.

The symposium will end with a free, public music performance on Tuesday, April 2, Art + Math = Music, featuring UMass Department of Music and Dance faculty percussionist Ayano Kataoka and electronic artist Jazer Giles at 7:30 p.m. in Bezanson Recital Hall. This evening program will include compositions by Conlon Nancarrow, Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Mark Applebaum, and Jazer Giles and feature a keynote address by Dr. Dominic Murcott, composer and Head of Composition and Music Technology at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London, UK.

In Pursuit of Equity
AES Director Dee Boyle-Clapp says, “Coming off the heels of our inaugural Women in Arts Leadership Symposium last fall, the Arts Extension Service is delighted to continue to work with UMCA and partners on and off campus to address gender disparity in the arts. The Arts Extension Service was founded to connect the arts and communities so the issue of access and inclusion is one that we care deeply about.”

Ayano Kataoka, who co-curated the Art + Math = Music concert with Bibiana Medkova (MFA Studio Art ’20) and will perform at the concert, was a discussion group leader at the Women in Arts Leadership Symposium (WALS) last fall. At WALS, Kataoka met over lunch with students interested in pursuing careers in music to share her personal experience and discuss particular strategies for women pursuing leadership positions in the field. Kataoka, a percussionist and UMass Department of Music and Dance faculty member, started playing marimba when she was 5 years old. When asked what advice she would give to young musicians entering the field Kataoka said, "When you are young you have more time and energy to do it, you should really adventure. Of course money and things are important but you can figure that out later. I traveled a lot to Europe, Egypt, Cuba, Thailand, etc. and it’s great to see things outside. Music is such a universal language and it should be much more and broad. Students here do not get as much exposure to outside.”

Interdisciplinary Viewpoints in Arts Programming
Director Boyle-Clapp comments, “The interdisciplinary nature of the Art + Math = Symposium and Concert is exciting. We are always interested in expanding the public’s sense of who can participate in the arts and humanities. The connection between art and math is an engaging one!”

When asked how the idea for combining art and math arose, UMCA Education Curator Amanda Herman said, “UMCA Director Loretta Yarlow, Bibiana Medkova, and I had been thinking about the connection between the exhibits in fall 2018 and spring 2019 and saw Math as a thread. We developed the idea in conversation: talking about other creative thinkers influenced by Art and Math and Bibiana’s work, which relates to math concepts and time signatures. There is actually a whole genre called “math rock”! It’s a more common concept than you might think. Then the opportunity to apply for funding from the Women’s Fund of UMass inspired us to connect this concept to women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields and it all came together.”

When asked about a challenge the curatorial team had faced in programming this interdisciplinary event, Herman responded, “We faced a challenge and made it into an asset! We had originally conceived of the exhibiting artist Xylor Jane being the keynote speaker for the symposium, but found she was going to be on an artist retreat during the event. We ended up creating a video about her work. We worked with a local filmmaker and editor, so it was great to support creative people in the community. Xylor’s gallery helped produce the film and they are excited that it will live on after the event. It is also exciting to have a documentary film as the keynote for a symposium. Ultimately it all worked out for the best and it is going to be great for the artist and event attendees as well.”

Presented by the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA), these events are made possible by a grant from the Women for UMass Amherst Fund and are in partnership with Arts Extension Service’s Arts Entrepreneurship Initiative. The concert is presented with the UMass Department of Music and Dance.

The Art + Math = program is curated by Bibiana Medkova, MFA Studio Art ’20, with assistance from Amanda Herman, UMCA Education Curator, and Loretta Yarlow, Director of UMCA. Please visit for a full symposium schedule and more details about the events.