1Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, 2School of Art and Humanities, University of Texas at Dallas, 3Community Engagement, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, 4Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
April 16, 2020 , Diamond 7
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science introduced a community art project in 2019 to complement a temporary exhibition, Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind, which featured original fossils of Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi. Drawing on an interest in STEAM-centered educational programming and the museum’s mission to make the science of evolution accessible to a general audience, local schools, civic partners, and non-profit organizations were invited to help welcome the fossils to Dallas through an art project. Participants were provided a 3D replica of the skull of one of two hominins visiting from South Africa along with information about each species and their significance to paleoanthropology. Groups were asked to reflect on their own role within the community and our common human origins to create an artistic design on the model. The decorated models were incorporated into a special display outside of the exhibit, bringing a new level of community participation and engagement with human evolution to the museum. The first call for participants resulted in 35 contributed pieces of artwork. Thirty of those included summaries detailing motivations behind the design. These anecdotes point toward common themes and motivations among the artists, including the importance of diversity, an interest in African culture, and reflections on the history of our common human origins. These results demonstrate community interest in both human origins and participating in the life of the museum and will inform the development and implementation of future community outreach initiatives.