Bio Sci grad creates mural for Smithsonian exhibit

section of mural at the Smithsonian

A section of the Kyle Pierce's mural at the Smithsonian.


Artist and College of Biological Sciences alumnus Kyle Pierce has created a 43-ft mural for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., for a new exhibit that opened December 13. The mural leads visitors into a new 10,000 square-foot education center called Q?rius, a first-of-its-kind interactive environment for teens.

Pronounced "curious," the space is a new way to connect science with the everyday teen experience. It combines the properties of scientific labs, collections vaults, creative studios and hangout spots to inspire teen visitors, their families and teachers to explore their world with curiosity and excitement.

And for Pierce, the center is the perfect way to combine two of his passions: art and science. The 1997 graduate double-majored in Biological Sciences and Art Studio.

Today Pierce is a San-Francisco based illustrator and photographer who builds layered narratives from photographs, illustrations and bits of hand-drawn type. His clients include magazines such as Kiplinger's and Utne Reader, as well as museums such as the Exploratorium.

In Q?rius, learning is experiential and can be customized to meet each person's particular interests. After passing by Pierce's mural, visitors will encounter seven distinct spaces designed for a wide variety of activities. A 100-seat theater will host scientific demonstrations, presentations, films and live Internet feeds from field research sites all over the world.

Through conversations with scientists and hands-on interactions with thousands of authentic museum specimens and objects, Q?rius visitors will experience how science is relevant to them and how they can develop the skills to become the scientists of tomorrow.

"We're taking the traditional museum and turning it inside out to help teens make sense of the world they are inheriting and giving them access to all our expertise−they can rub shoulders with our scientists, handle really cool objects and use amazing microscopes," said Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History. "Q?rius is a place where young people and science experts can come together to try to figure out how we will meet the challenges of the future."

An important feature is the immense collection of more than 6,000 museum objects that will be available to visitors to explore and investigate. Q?rius will give teens unparalleled access to bones, minerals and fossils more than 485 million years old from the largest teaching collection in the world. They will have the opportunity to examine the collections using the same types of scientific instruments that Smithsonian researchers use in their work every day.

Q?rius was made possible in part by the support of private donors, including the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Elizabeth and Whitney MacMillan, Barbara and Craig Barrett, the National Museum of Natural History Advisory Board 2012 and Olympus Corp.