Schnittka’s ‘A Story About Science’ selected for museum showcase

August 17, 2018


Mural painted by Schnittka depicting scientist and descriptions of their worksChristine Schnittka, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Education focusing on STEM Education, has been selected to present original artwork in an upcoming showcase at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art (JCSM) at Auburn University. Her 5’x8’ piece, a visual representation, is entitled “A Story About Science.”

“The piece that was selected is actually part of a larger work – a mural of sorts — that I began years ago when I was a graduate student at the University of Virginia,” Schnittka said. “The larger piece depicts stories about science from 1500 CE to the present times, though the display at the museum will only include the section that represents the 20th century. It took years to learn about all of these scientists and their discoveries, and it took help from many students here at Auburn, especially Jacob Helf, Reese Claybrook, and Shannon Bales. I am currently working on a book to accompany the entire mural so viewers and readers can learn the fascinating stories of the people behind their famous discoveries. As a scientist and an artist, I am equally engaged by both. The work really is less about science and more about people and the barriers they broke.”

As a girl, Schnittka was asked that age-old question by her mother: What do you want to be when you grow up? She wanted to be an artist, but her mother had different plans. “Winston Churchill painted on weekends. You can, too. You’re going to be an engineer.” So she became an engineer but never lost her passion for painting. Her primary medium is watercolor.

“The work is done in acrylics on canvas, but I sponged it to give it a parchment look, which I really like. It’s important for me that people understand that science is a human endeavor undertaken by ordinary people, and that one discovery leads to another, and these are stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things! Anton van Leuwenhoek was a Dutch janitor who, in his spare time, ground lenses and saw microorganisms for the first time. Williamina Fleming was a Scottish maid whose employer taught her to analyze the spectra of stars, and she discovered white dwarfs. Jewel Cobb was an American biologist born in 1924. Despite being an African–American woman in a difficult era, she went on to discover cures for cancer, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. So I hope this work inspires others, including young people, in the growing field of citizen-science.”

The exhibit, which also includes dozens of works from other Auburn faculty and students, will be on display at the museum from September 28th-October 14th, 2018.