Antarctica: The Final Frontier for Artists and Writers?

An Oct. 3 live Skype from Antarctica at a Connecticut museum highlights science "on the ice" -- and art.

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Dr. Kim S. Bernard and some of the landscape that a visual artist would love. Photo: Dr. Kim S. Bernard.

On Thurs., Oct. 3, starting at 7pm at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, there will be a major panel of speakers and presentations called From the Bottom of the World: The Art and Science of Antarctica. It’s a befitting event for this venerable art-and-science institution, and the title is significant in the sense that both descriptors are true: there is always dramatic, transformative science taking place “on the ice,” and, at the same time, a near-indescribable beauty on Antarctica as well. So much so that the highlight of the event — a live Skype hookup from Antarctica with Dr. Kim S. Bernard, associate professor of biological oceanography at Oregon State University, currently at Palmer Station — will take place outside, hopefully, weather permitting. All the better to showcase the pristine and unparalleled aesthetics at the bottom of the world. (Side note: Bernard is part of a team at Palmer Station composed entirely of women.)

Should those in attendance at the Bruce — or you, reading this article — wonder how on earth any of this pertains to a website focused on arts and politics, it’s worth noting that there’s also, on Antarctica, a robust, federally funded program that brings down artists as well as writers to do their work.

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We can credit the National Science Foundation, the lead federal agency managing the US Antarctic Program, with establishing the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, known as USAP, to facilitate writing and artistic projects designed to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Antarctic continent by the general population. This includes the many “human endeavors” always underway on the southernmost continent.

Here’s a bit more on USAP:

The Artist and Writers Program gives priority to projects that focus on interpreting and representing the scientific activities being conducted in the unique Antarctic region. Proposed projects must target audiences in the US and be distributed/exhibited in the US. The program does not support site installations or performances in Antarctica. The program also does not support short-term projects that are essentially journalistic in nature… Artists and Writers Program field teams should consist of no more than one or two people.

Also, we should note:

Successful projects will be provided with USAP logistical support needed to implement the proposed activity, as well as round-trip economy air tickets between the United States and the Southern Hemisphere. USAP infrastructure available to support projects undertaken by artists and writers consists of three year-round stations, numerous austral summer research camps in Antarctica, two research vessels, and surface and air transportation. The Artists and Writers Program does not provide direct funding to successful applicants for any purpose.

While a full list of artists and writers can be found here (yes, USAP is literally several decades old), significant participants have included artist Lita Albuquerque, novelist Elizabeth Arthur, photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, art-science practitioner Xavier Cortada, artist Helen Glazer, film and stage director Werner Herzog, composer Glenn McClure, journalist Fen Montaigne, photographer George Steinmetz and writer-speaker-activist Gabrielle Walker.

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The next deadline for full proposals is June 1, 2020. For more information and eligibility requirement for USAP, click here.

To reserve a seat for the live Skype event at From the Bottom of the World: The Art and Science of Antarctica, click here and scroll down to the “Reservations” button, or call 203-869-0376.

Doors open 6pm for a reception with light bites and beverages, followed by the panel discussion, live Skype from Antarctica and Q&A, 7:00-8:30 pm. Seats: $30 for Museum members, $45 non-members. The panel’s sponsors are Crystal Cruises and Largay Travel.