Art, science, and education meet at NCAR

Catching up with Lisa Gardiner

April 8, 2014 | As the Shared Skies art exhibit was being installed at the Mesa Lab for its April 1 opening, Staff News spent a little time learning about the project and getting to know the staff person behind it.

Lisa Gardiner
Lisa Gardiner with a panel from Shared Skies.

Lisa Gardiner, who has been working in education at UCAR since 2002, was first introduced to Kim Abeles, the artist behind Shared Skies, when Kim brought her earlier exhibit on air pollution to the Mesa Lab in 2012. When Lisa heard about the new exhibit, she was excited to work with Abeles again. The latest exhibit is a collection of photos of the sky taken by various photographers, included several from UCAR, from vantage points around the world.

“As people look toward the sky each morning, through the day, or each night,” says Abeles, “the sky speaks to their personal and local concerns. In a global sense, we observe the effects of our environmental decisions and find community through a seamless sky.” This, she explains, is the inspiration behind the project. “Our skies portray the connected parts of our place on this Earth.”

As the lead for K–12 formal education in UCP’s Spark program, Lisa’s portfolio includes a variety of activities. One day may find her developing curriculum about weather and climate. The next day she’s leading a professional development workshop for teachers on how to teach those subjects. She works with other educational specialists throughout the science community, including Boulder colleagues at CU, NOAA, and NREL. And, with her background in art and science, she coordinates the NCAR Art-Science Gallery.

Lisa shared with us why she thinks art is a good way to start conversations about and teach science.

“Art is storytelling. It helps us communicate about the natural world,” she explains, adding that “art is not just one thing. Art is another way of seeing the world; science is a way to see the world, too. They are both connected because they help us understand the Earth.”

It comes as no surprise that Lisa’s educational background is an interesting blend of science and art, too. When she began her studies at Smith College as an art major, her professors encouraged her to combine her love of art with her studies in science, which led to a change in major and a bachelor’s degree in geology and marine science. A Master of Fine Arts came next from Goucher College in creative writing, which she topped off with a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Georgia, where she studied fossil coral reefs.

Originally from the Boston area, Lisa now calls North Boulder her home. In addition to her work at Spark, she is a children’s book illustrator and has illustrated the Elementary GLOBE series of books for The GLOBE Program. Lisa also enjoys SCUBA diving and spending time with her dog, Mila.

Shared Skies: Community art at the Mesa Lab

Congratulations to the following staff members, whose photographs are included in the Shared Skies exhibit:

Caspar Ammann
Elizabeth Burakowski
Carlye Calvin
Sharon Clark
Michelle Flores
Lisa Gardiner
Julie Harris
Peggy LeMone
Seth McGinnis
Pavel Romashkin
Janet Scannell
Tim Scheitlin
Greg Thompson

You can stop by and see the exhibit on the second floor of the Mesa Lab from April 1 through June 30.

Kim Abeles and Greg Thompson
Kim Abeles (left) incorporated photos from a number of staff members, including RAL's Greg Thompson (right), in her Shared Skies exhibit.