- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, an innovative program that fuses art with science--and science with art--took shape 17 years ago, co-founded and co-directed by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick.
Together Ulllman, professor of entomology, and Billick, trained as a scientist (genetics), formed a tight-knit talented team that taught Entomology 01 students about art and science. For nearly two decades, the duo taught students about such scientific subjects as honey bees, bumble bees and dragonflies, and then inspired them to create mosaic ceramics, paintings and other art work.
“Participants see and feel art and science, hold it in their hands, hearts and memories—in ceramics, painting, photographs, music, and textiles,” Ullman said.
Today the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program includes science faculty, design faculty, museum educators, professional artists and UC Davis students.
Tonight (Friday, June 6) marked the end of an era. At the celebration in Third Space, Davis, a crowd came to admire the work of the spring-quarter ENT 01 students and praise the accomplishments of Billick, who is retiring from the university at the end of June. Barring a financial miracle or a grant to save the program, the spring quarter marked Billick's last as an ENT 01 teacher.
Of their 17 years together, Ullman quipped: “Some marriages don't last that long.”
Billick praised the students' work and "their ability to connect the head through the heart through their hands. We created together and we communicated together… the students rocked this venture.”
The result: an internationally recognized program that continues to draw oohs and aahs, as well as and overseas invitations to speak. Much of the art is displayed throughout the campus, including the UC Davis Arboretum and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
As for Billick, she toyed with a scientific career before opting for a career that fuses art with science. She received her bachelor of science degree in genetics in 1973 and her master's degree in fine arts in 1977, studying art with such masters as Bob Arneson, Roy De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud and Manuel Neri.
Billick maintains a compound in Baja, where she teaches three workshops a year called "Heaven on Earth."
For outstanding teaching, Diane Ullman was recently selected the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Award in Teaching from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. She is now one of six candidates for the ESA Distinguished Teaching Award. ESA will select the recipient from one of six branches—Pacific, Eastern, North Central, Southeastern, Southwestern and International—and present the award at its Nov. 16-19 meeting in Portland, Ore.
Billick said she is grateful for the UC Davis experiences and the endless opportunities. "I'm looking forward to the next phase (of my life as an artist)," she said. "Please don't think of me as leaving; I'm spreading out.”