Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Bedford Road Collegiate students collaborated on an art installation for Nuit Blanche, showing off their artistic skills by painting with live bacteria.
Using 5” petri dishes as a canvas, students applied growing organisms to create works of art. Blaine Chartrand, BioScience Technology program head, instructor and applied research chair, prepared the petri dishes with agar, a jelly-like substance pulled from seaweed. After the petri dishes were prepared, students streaked on bacteria to create unique designs. In the following days the bacteria started to feed on the agar and multiply into colorful patterns. It takes a couple of days for the final creations to emerge.
The bacteria artworks will be displayed as part of an art installation at Nuit Blanche on September 24. Using a Connect Four framework, 35 petri dishes will be on exhibit.
“Students are using genetically engineered bacteria for this art project,” says Chartrand. “I created a colour wheel of bacteria for the students to choose from, including some fluorescent proteins from jellyfish that will glow under a blue light. Using sterile toothpicks and Q-tips the students created their artworks. It’s exciting to see the bacteria artwork literally come to life!”
Students were provided with appropriate PPE for the event and worked under supervision of instructors in the BioScience Technology program to ensure proper handling and disposal of biological material.
“This is an exciting activity,” says Sarah Miller, second year BioScience Technology student. “Sometimes the theories we learn and the projects we work on can seem abstract. It’s nice to be able to show family and friends a bioscience project we are working on. I didn’t know you could create so many different pigment colours from bacteria. I hope everyone enjoys the installation.”
“This art installation is a great opportunity for students to learn about engineering bacteria and for the public to learn more about Sask Polytech’s BioScience Technology program,” says Chartrand. “This is a science-inspired art project. Like science, art involves curiosity and exploration.”
This art installation is part of Global Biotech Week’s partnership with Nuit Blanche, a free, night-time arts festival that showcases and celebrates art and culture. Sask Polytech’s art installation will be on display at Oskayak High School on Broadway Avenue during Nuit Blanche on September 24. Sask Polytech BioScience Technology students will be on hand to explain their artistic process to the public.
Learn more about Sask Polytech’s BioScience Technology program.