When students at Drake University in Des Moines signed up for Angela Battle’s painting class, they had no idea it would lead them down a scientific path and the study of orangutan intelligence. But bringing art and science together was the goal and it resulted in an exhibition entitled, "The Shumaker Project."

It began last fall when students in Battle's painting class were inspired by a tour of Great Ape Trust where they met with Dr. Rob Shumaker, lead scientist and director of orangutan research at The Trust, and observed the orangutans Azy and Knobi. Students learned about primate cognitive research and the ability of orangutans to use a system of symbols to communicate.

"The Shumaker Project was the result of an opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange between seemingly dissimilar professions – in this case, the visual arts and primate cognitive research," said Battle, an associate professor of art at Drake. "I seek ways to broaden the experiential learning potential of my painting students. One way to do this is to invite scholars from fields outside of the visual arts to present aspects of their research to which the students then respond in a visual way."

Images (clockwise from upper-left): Urbanization, Sarah Michaelson; Self-portrait, Angela Warren; Empathy, Kristin Adamson; Untitled, Cat Hall.

The Shumaker Project/Great Ape Trust of Iowa

This page was first displayed
on January 31, 2007

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