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RIMOSA Takes Us to the Intersection of Science and Art

By Marina I. Jokic

An educational and cultural destination, The Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) uses highly interactive exhibits to teach people about science and art. With an institutional mission to awaken curiosity and critical thinking in children ages eight and up as well as in adults, RIMOSA accomplishes that through experimentation and hands-on learning.

Unlike a traditional art museum, RIMOSA encourages visitors to touch, smell, and even physically alter the exhibits. The exploration of science through art and interactive exhibitions helps reframe complex ideas into digestible information. With about ten revolving exhibits at any one time, there is plenty to explore.

"Who doesn't like messing around and making things," RIMOSA's executive director Bonnie Epstein said. "We also try to help visitors see common objects in a slightly unexpected and surprising way so that a visit to RIMOSA might inspire ideas for new activities at home."

Housed on the first floor of a historic building with wooden floors, original tin ceiling, and exposed brick walls, RIMOSA enjoys a constant flow of natural light. Every exhibit at the museum is hands-on and allows visitors to learn by doing. For instance, the Air Tube exhibit allows for crafting objects from the materials provided such as paper plates, cups, foam, felt, and pom-poms while using tape, scissors and rubber bands to alter them. Visitors place their objects into the bottom of a six-foot tall, clear, acrylic tube which has a constant stream of air blowing through it and see first-hand what happens to their creations.

Other noteworthy displays include the bicycle-powered Spin Art, which is all about experimenting with light and shadow. This particular exhibit gives a fresh piece of paper for each visitor, which is attached to the painting platform with clips. You can either squirt paint prior to turning the crank (what used to be the bicycle's pedal) to spin the painting platform rapidly or start the paper spinning and then add paint as it spins. Once participants are done and the break is pulled, they observe what centripetal force has created and the many factors which have influenced the end result.

"We want to help kids become creative problem solvers who can examine and understand the world around them," Epstein said. "Studies have shown that children lose their creativity as they age into [teenagers] and adults, but this doesn't have to happen."

When RIMOSA was started, people saw science and art as almost diametrically opposed disciplines. As a scientist herself, Epstein knew from personal experience that the best people in her field were the ones who were able to think both analytically and creatively. In fact, true innovators in any field are the ones who are able to think outside the box and go against the grain.

"What I love most about my job is watching individuals light up with wonder and curiosity as they find things that peak their interest, their engagement as they have an idea and work to carry it out, and then their joy when they accomplish what they set out to do," Epstein said. "It never gets old."

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