Convergence aims to inspire collaborative work, foster interdisciplinary thought, push the boundaries of what is considered science and art, and make neuroscience research accessible to a general audience.
The Convergence Initiative is an independent Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge of neuroscience and art and promoting the cross-pollination between these two disciplines.
Ultimately, our goal is to influence people’s perspectives about neuroscience and the arts. Toward this end, Convergence fosters collaboration, trans-disciplinary thought and knowledge sharing. We do this by supporting programs and activities, engaging in partnerships with other institutions and organizations, and by hosting conferences, exhibitions, workshops, and pedagogical exercises. We aim to facilitate research, discussion, and the transmission of knowledge. Our goal is to advance the education of neuroscience and art, to promote the intersection between these two disciplines, and to engage the public with new ideas.
Convergence works in partnership with the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Concordia University Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN/ACN), and the Visual Voice Gallery. Convergence also benefits from the support of the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) of McGill University.
Paméla Simard and Hunter Shaw.
Hand laminated wood (wenge, maple, pine, cherry, mahogany,
and walnut), plexiglass, magnifying glass.
Photo by Alex Tran.
Since its origins in 2016, a primary activity of Convergence has been the coordination of an interdisciplinary course hosted at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Concordia University. The course started in 2017 as an experimental independent study worth three credits with registration open to FoFA students with volunteer attendance open to IPN/BRaIN trainees. Twenty FoFA students and sixteen IPN/BRaIN trainees participated in that first iteration. In 2018, the course evolved to a full-year course worth six credits with registration open to both FoFA and IPN students, plus the option to volunteer for all BRaIN trainees. Fourteen FoFA students and twelve IPN/BRaIN trainees participated in that second iteration. A third iteration of the course started in September 2019.
Convergence’s unique approach is based on a
“two-way engagement” framework that promotes transverse knowledge sharing without emphasizing one side over the other.
The course uses a unique model based on the “two-way engagement” framework that uses transverse knowledge sharing without emphasizing one part over the other. The course is the result of a collaboration between Dr. Cristian Zaelzer, founder and current president of the initiative, and an expert in neuroscience and science communication, and MA. Ed. Bettina Forget, an expert in the artistic process and art education, and the Fine Arts Director of Convergence. The course combines lectures, debates, laboratory visits, workshops, studio work, and independent study to encourage all participants to understand and discover territories outside of their scientific or artistic comfort zone.
A major outcome of the course is the public exhibition of artworks made in collaboration between neuroscience and art students. These exhibitions display artworks produced by the team inspired by the scientific research of the neuroscientist in the team. Additionally, the neuroscience students participate in a symposium where they explain their research to a general audience using the non-traditional methods learned during the course. Finally, two public lectures accompany the month of activities that mark the closure of the course.
Between 2017 and 2019, the 28 artworks produced through the course have prompted discussion about neuroscience by attracting thousands of people to our public exhibitions in Montreal. Access to our online catalog of art exhibitions, social media coverage of our activities, and other material available on our website allows us to touch the lives of many more.
In addition to the course, Convergence hosts public seminars exploring the crossover of science with the arts and communication. The series, calledThe Convergence Sci-Art Art-Sci Series, has been running since October 2017 with seminars covering subjects like the influence of media on modern science, the public perception of the scientific method, neuroscience popular misconceptions, and science-immersed artistic practice.
The results observed in our endeavors have been presented at meetings for the Canadian Association for Neuroscience and the Society for Neuroscience.
Convergence seeks to overcome stereotypes by providing everyone with the opportunity to think outside-the-box through conversations and collaborations with people of differing points of view. We see free dialogue and integral education as fundamental to a vibrant and prosperous society.