Virtual art-science festival registration is open: The Illuminated Universe, April 23-25

Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics

Credit: Shane Mayer-Gawlik
Credit: Shane Mayer-Gawlik

Creativity is an essential ingredient in both the sciences and the arts, and a growing movement across the U.S. is exploring the fertile and often surprising intersection of the two. At Illinois Physics, Professor Smitha Vishveshwara has taken a leading role in creating opportunities for the public and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) students to experience and celebrate the fusion of arts and science through course offerings, student exhibits, and live performance arts.

Now, Vishveshwara and her colleagues at Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe (ICASU) and Illinois Physics are putting on a virtual arts and sciences festival entitled The Illuminated Universe, featuring the work of scientists and artists. The multidisciplinary event taking place April 23 through 25 is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.

The presentations will span multiple themes, starting with “Cosmic Flights” on Friday night at 6:00 P.M. The second session’s theme, “When Art and Science Collide,” kicks off Saturday at 11 A.M. Then Saturday afternoon, the theme “Quantum Enchantment” will start at 2:00 P.M. The festival’s final theme “Art of Life” starts Sunday at 12 P.M. (all times are in Central Daylight Time CDT). Each session will run about one-and-a-half to two hours long.

Working scientists and professional artists from UIUC, Brown University, Fermilab, and Montana State University will present in different media, including music, photography, visual arts, performing arts, poetry, and creative writing. Some presentations have been prerecorded and some will be live. The format is interactive, and the audience will have the opportunity to chat with and pose questions to the presenters.

The festival is an opportunity to come together and be inspired, after more than a year of COVID-19 social distancing.

Vishveshwara comments, “We're so excited to be doing this and how it's all coming together. We began playing with the germ of an idea for this festival in the Fall as a way of offering light for the times. It has taken flight through the convergence of magnificent scientists, artists, and communicators who have been so gracious, diverse, and creative in their contributions. The Illuminated Universe dissolves traditional boundaries in exploring who we are from the fundamental quantum building blocks to life, to the human spirit, to the Earth and cosmos we live in.

“It’s worth mentioning, in these times and in virtual space, our intent was to make it low effort to contribute, either by having people share creative works (or excerpts thereof) that were already available, or by having people give short presentations or participate in a panel discussion. Yet, we received beautiful new pieces and people spent significant time and effort on creating them—it has been moving to watch this process! We are both excited and grateful to be premiering them.”

Outreach coordinator Jessica Raley notes, “We are probably all getting Zoom fatigue, for lack of a better term. Here is a chance to participate in a virtual festival that will offer beauty, excitement, mystery, and inspiration, through the Zoom platform. People need art right now. It's been a tough year, but we can still celebrate the joy of creativity and discovery. That's the purpose of this event."

In addition to Vishveshwara and Raley, the organizing committee includes Lindsay Olson, Rebecca Wiltfong, Patrick Snyder, and Taiya Tkachuk.

The Illuminated Universe virtual art-science festival is supported in part by donations from Illinois Physics alumni and friends to the Excellence in Physics Fund.

For more information and to register for the event, please visit the event website at



Recent News

  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
  • Outreach

FUTURE-MINDS-QB, a bridge program streamlining a path from a master’s degree at Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, to a doctoral degree at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has received a T32 training grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The FUTURE-MINDS-QB program will provide rigorous training, a nurturing environment, and academic and professional mentorship for students from underrepresented ethnic, racial, and gender groups in quantitative biology and biomedical data sciences. Quantitative biology encompasses bioinformatics, computational biology, genomic biology, and biophysics. The program is currently accepting applications.

  • Research Funding

In the quest to uncover the mysteries of the gravitational universe, the Simons Foundation awarded Illinois Physics Professor Nicolás Yunes a Targeted Grant in Mathematical and Physical Sciences to study astrophysical and cosmological signatures of dynamical Chern-Simons (dCS) gravity. Yunes, who is the founding director of the Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe (ICASU), shares the $2 million award with Brown University Professor of Physics Stephon Alexander.

  • Outreach

Over the course of three days, the festival featured the work of over fifty contributors. It was attended by nearly a hundred people each day. During each of the festival’s four themed sessions, videos, conversation, and live performances took place in rapid succession. In the dialogue that emerged, the boundaries between disciplines blurred, as scientists danced their research, played their data as sound, and discussed favorite pieces of art, challenging their colleagues to do the same—sometimes in real time. Artists, on the other hand, explained particle physics models through textiles, magnetism through dance, and physics fundamentals through comic books.