Field Trips

Exploring the Exploratorium

Posted on November 14, 2011

To some, it may seem as though the mindset required to be an artist or a scientist are completely opposite – but the Exploratorium, located at the edge of the Presidio in San Francisco’s Marina District proves otherwise. Priding itself on changing the standard for science museums to allow for tactile investigation and experimentation by its visitors, the Exploratorium offers a unique, hands-on experience that can be appreciated by all. A visit by CE’s artists shows that scientists and artists share many of the same qualities, such as the desire to be inventive, the ability to imagine things that are outside of the box, and the resourcefulness and skill to execute them. I met with four of CE’s artists, Lance Rivers, Marcus McClure, Merna Lum, and Quintin Rodriguez, and Visual Art Instructor Mara Pollak, outside of the Exploratorium on a beautiful October morning. We were all excited to get inside and see what the Exploratorium had to offer.


Many of the artists had visited before, and already had favorite stations that they were keen on visiting. Merna, for example, wanted to head upstairs to the Listening section, which includes interactive displays that deal with different types of sound, mostly involving musical instruments. At the activity Hole Saw Rhythms, CE artists moved circular pieces around the spinning dial to produce different melodies. Another display helped artists learn the kinetics behind string instruments, and noticing the difference in sound that was made by adjusting the pressure of a bow on a string.

Another section of the Exploratorium focused on all things visual, which included the scientific explanations behind how different colors are created and how humans are able to see them. One of the most electrifying stations in the visual department was called Colored Shadows, which consisted of a white wall and three different colored lights hanging from the ceiling, pointed at the wall. The lights were positioned so that their rays would meet at the wall and mix to make a rainbow of colors. Visitors were then invited to step in front of the wall to see their multicolored reflections. CE artists, who are certainly familiar with color, see themselves in a different light (see above left).

Some of the stations on the ground floor of the Exploratorium focused on how science is intertwined into our everyday lives. Topics included movement, heat energy, pressure, and force. Similar to the other visitors surrounding us, CE artists dove into the hands-on exhibits and were eager to try them out.


We finished the day by having a relaxing lunch outside, sitting on a bench near the Palace of Fine Arts – a gorgeous structure that is adjacent to the Exploratorium. Once lunch was finished, the artists spent time sketching, ripe with inspiration after their time inside and the beauty of their surroundings. After sketching, it was time to head back to CE on the bus. I had a wonderful time visiting the Exploratorium with the artists – it was a morning of great experimentation and artistic inspiration.  

Submitted by Lisa Serrano, Creativity Explored Intern

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