Who says vintage sci-fi movies and dated educational media material on 16mm film don't matter in 21st century science? With an ongoing series of screenings featuring vintage 20th century educational science and sci-fi film, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has educated museum-goers while keeping them entertained.
Informed by movies like the original Planet of the Apes, experimental filmmaker Stan Vanderbeek and "NASA newsreels from the mid-60s-70s," two museum leaders -- Kevin Arrow, the Museum's Arts and Collections Manager, and Curatorial Technical Advisor Barron Sherer -- have found value in what others might think is outdated, irrelevant material in a world of breakthroughs in nanotechnology.
Sherer and Arrow's program has made them finalists in the Knight Arts Challenge South Florida. Sherer, the man behind the Rewind/Fast Forward Film & Video Festival, hopes he and Arrow can expand their program with the help of funding from Knight.
"Part of the reason the Knight challenge grant application was written was to enhance our programming," he says. "For example, at our last program we had an astrophysicist do a talk that dealt with what the Star Trek episode we screened got right and wrong about time travel. Lecturers, scientists and curators can help bring a contemporary perspective and context to dated material."
Arrow, a 2014 Miami New Times' Mastermind Award winner, and Sherer, are both longtime collaborators in presenting screenings of rare film in Miami. Arrow notes it's becoming a lost art to present screenings in the celluloid format ... to the detriment of viewers. "There is an inherent warmth to real film screenings," he says. "Our eyes are growing too accustomed to HD images on small glass screens. Taking the time to watch real film, in real time, is a very luxurious and beneficial experience for the eye and mind."
Besides educated speakers in science, there is also a musical component to cut out any notion of monotony. Sherer notes, "We've been working with local musicians to compose improvised scores for film materials. It's another way to engage audiences that might not consider the museum otherwise ... We've had musical interventions provided by Kian Seara (Rare Fruit) and Gyr Bartlett (Psychic Mirrors) and Romulo del Castillo did a mind blowing score for a diptych of clips from Kubrick's 2001 [A Space Odyssey] and James Whitney's Lapis at our last show."
By pooling their deep affection for cutting edge music and film for the sake of science and hosting experts, Arrow and Sherer are bringing something both cultural and educational to Miami that attendees never seem to tire of. "I am interested in creating film programming that excites me," states Arrow. "I want to offer something that is not currently happening in our city. If I arrived in a new city and saw a program like this I would definitely want to go."
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Adds Sherer, "I'm always asked, 'When is the next one?' The Knight Arts Challenge has always been forward thinking; The Knight Foundation has been looking for innovation in cultural programming for years now and has made a real impact on our community. Applying for the grant seems like a natural next step as the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has been so supportive of this endeavor."
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.