If you were to look up the meaning of Symmetry, you would find definitions that relate to mathematics, physics, and art. The Fearful Symmetry NOVA award highlights these parallel concepts between Art and Science by investigating symmetry found within different cultural art forms. Pack 278 Cub Scouts visited the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, Maryland to attend a Kolam workshop taught by Shanthi Chandrasekar and her daughter, Aishwariya Chandrasekar. Kolam are passed down generationally and compose of a series of dots and lines creating patterns with varying motifs and forms of symmetry.
Cub Scouts learned about the history and cultural significance of the Kolam and explored the many forms of symmetry found within them. While learning to draw different Kolam, they also gained a better understanding on the concept of fractals. Aishwariya demonstrated the traditional way Kolam are created using rice flour and sand and had the Cub Scouts do their best at creating their own. Following the workshop, Cub Scouts viewed Aishwariya’s art collection called Thalaimuraigal, Three Generations of Kolam, displayed within the Gandhi Memorial Center. The collection showcases Kolam created by Aishwariya’s grandmother, mother, and herself.
Shanthi describes Kolam as, “a versatile tool for her to explore topics she is curious about, such as cosmology, neuroscience, and math.” The connection between the art form and STEM concepts is especially clear at her art installation, Singularities and Infinities, displayed at the Katzan Art Center at American University. Pack 278 Cub Scouts ventured to the Katzan Art Center following the workshop to continue their investigation into the parallels between Art and Science.
Experimental Particle Physicist, Michael Albrow, combined prose and poetry with Shanthi’s artwork to explore and express concepts of the cosmos. Found within the Artists’ Statement, the following best explains the goal of the Fearful Symmetry NOVA; “While artists and scientists view the universe through different disciplinary lenses, there is much in common – a sense of wonder and beauty, a fascination with the unknown, the boundaries of our knowledge, the perfect symmetries and broken symmetries.” Pack 278 Cub Scouts, parents, and leaders left the day with a better understanding of how symmetry can be found within their everyday life.