Art, Science, and the Gaps
By Samantha Rojas
“A mind that is stretched by a new
experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Homes
Artist and neuroscience student Nzingah Oniwosan lives in the gaps. She has found an interesting way to bridge her personal gaps between art and business, art and science, and use it for her professional and community-oriented gains. By combining her zeal for art and her proclivity for science into a Teaching Artist business that sustains her financially, today she is on a mission to inspire and accentuate the developmental skills in special needs children. Nzingah finds that tomorrow she will be happiest as an artist and a doctor. “That is where I will conquer the world!” she says with a challenging smile.
A follower of the Howard Gardner School of Theory, Nzingah believes that art expands the mind’s potential to absorb information. Gardner's ‘theory of multiple intelligences’ cites that human beings have many different ways to learn and process information, and that these are independent of each other. “I believe in these multiple intelligences, so for me the education system sometimes alienates children who can’t learn through the standard systems," she says. “It’s a gap; I am driven towards working in it.”
Nzingah the scientist uses catch words loosely that immediately resonate with an artistic soul. Words like harmony and risk; rising to the challenge; emotional disconnect…words and situations that as humans, we come face-to-face with every day; and more so, in the life of an artist. This artist, then equally as fluently, refers in medical speak to terms such as auditory, tactile, kinesthetic…to describe different types of mental interpretations in learning, as this is where she feels that artistic methods may be used as a mechanism to reach almost every type of learner. The divide between the two sides of her personality is invisible; this artist/scientist is clearly one and the same in mind and spirit, neurons and pastels.
During her junior year, while studying neuroscience- she took a break to ensure that her educational decisions were her own. With this break, she confronted the risk of not returning, or returning to something else.
And the risk of finding her business of art.
Another gap between the arts and business rears its presence between young artists and their parents in the zone where young creators might be encouraged while choosing a career; and again on the political field of Federal and State spending. Year in and year out, the idea of the arts as a formidable economic driver is challenged, and re-challenged. This gap exists at the alpha and the omega of business life as we know it.
Some might say that this well-known space lies between perception and reality; lofty and grounded concepts; abstract and tangible communications. Ironically, some might argue, Art IS the bridge between these dichotomous ideas. To confront these obstacles and remove them in order to succeed over disheartening possibilities is the goal. And this is the aim of one such nationally-recognized workshop - Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute (AEI), in which Nzingah enrolled in summer 2009. This annual business workshop, presented by the Broward Cultural Division, strives to debunk the ‘starving artist’ myth, by giving creators the tools and confidence to go forth and multiply, artistically.
“I wanted to become more professional as an artist,” she says. “AEI opened my eyes, to how far I have come and how well I am doing, which enhanced my self-esteem; while simultaneously, it exposed me to new areas for the next steps in reaping the rewards for my natural talents.”
Today, more than seven years after than solo leap of faith out of neuroscience and into the artist’s life, Nzingah is a recognized artist in her field, selling many art forms through an interactive website and exhibitions; and manages a sustaining business as a teaching artist. She has re-instated herself in studies at Florida Atlantic University in Neuroscience and intends to continue on to her Ph.D. Her dream of the artist and the doctor is on the horizon.
“I think that the art is a very dynamic form. It’s not static. Some things, once you get it and know it, like a scientific formula - that’s the end of it. If you give a child a technique for creativity, you ultimately give them infinite possibilities,” says Nyzingah. “A uniquely new understanding is created between the artist and their environment, and therein lays the power of art.”
By teaching the teachers, Nzingah has found a partnership with a more tangible and far-reaching impact on children. Through the Miami-Based not for profit organization Arts for Learning, she is inspiring the teachers who will reach more students than she ever could. Her workshops result in methods that integrate a current teaching movement - that of not separating and isolating children with special needs, and instead puts them in an inclusive setting, where they are part of the general academic population. Many of these teachers don’t have a background in special education, and that is where Nyzingah through arts, education and science has found her niche.
“Many people already know about the study of classical music, for example. Multiple studies show that listening to it, increases intelligence. When you look at it from a neurological perspective…the brain sees something new and the new exposure creates new pathways that foster added efficiency in processing information,” reports Nzingah the scientist.
It’s interesting to note that in striving to bridge these gaps in her life, Nzingah has found her place within the gaps themselves. For her, it is a place of personal power, community power, and the power of transformation through science, abstract ideas, and through business.