Julie Marie Lemon has always been interested in revealing what cannot be seen at first glance. For her master’s thesis at the University of Chicago, she examined how images from the Hubble Space Telescope mirrored oil paintings from the Baroque period. In both, she found, tiny details were made visible.
“Deep down,” Lemon says, “there are these connections.”
Such connections—barely visible, powerful and potentially field-altering—have since formed the basis for Lemon’s brainchild: the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative (ASCI).
ASCI, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, has long supported the collaborative creation of high-quality art, science and social science at UChicago. As the founder, Lemon wanted to bring seemingly disparate areas of scholarship into conversation.
She wondered what new ways of thinking might result from an exchange of methodologies, tools and questions. But she also wanted to create bridges between scholars at UChicago that would resist familiar, cursory answers—like a painter illustrating a biology textbook.
So, Lemon founded ASCI in 2010 to bring together graduate students and faculty from across disciplines and observe the results of their collaborations. Her initial role was to find the people whose work and philosophy would speak to one another, playing matchmaker for connections that could spark something profound.
From the beginning, Lemon says, graduate students were some of the most enthusiastic participants—open to new ideas, and able to quickly engage with unfamiliar fields. Their energy resulted in the initiative’s longest-running program: the Graduate Collaboration Grants.
Awarded yearly, these grants fund teams of at least two graduate students from different fields for a year of sustained, collaborative work. Participants weave together their unique perspectives into a culminating project, augmented by exhibition and publication opportunities.