Student Blog: Combining Art and Science

As a four year senior at The Putney School, I have had a lot of time to experiment with what interests me. As a younger student, I focused primarily on art. I took drawing classes and worked in Putney’s studios often. However, during my time here, my focus gravitated towards the sciences, and later, I realized that I could combine the two.

During project week this past fall, I created structures, both artistic and environmentally productive, made with a combination of mycelium (the network-like organism of a mushroom), sawdust from Elm Lea Farm and rye grain. I began my project by creating bags of substrate that I inoculated with liquid cultures that contained mushroom spores (that would later germinate into a mycelium). The first round of bags was just a test, but in the spring, I will cut them open once the substrate is colonized, and cut and shape the colonized substrate into the sculpture that I have in mind. My intention was for this first project week to act as a “test trial” for my spring project where I will actually create my sculpture. I used different substrates in my project to see which one yielded the most mycelial growth after a two-week period. The rye grain proved to be the most successful, and I am planning on continuing to grow mycelium throughout the winter so that once spring comes, I will have plenty of material ready!

My hope is that during the spring, I will be able to time the process so that the sculpture will actually fruit mushrooms towards the end of project week. The shape of the sculpture will take on a form that the fruiting mushrooms will complement, allowing for it to be partially under my control, and partially under the control of the natural inclination of the mushrooms themselves.

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