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Q&A with Nicholas R. Bell: The WONDER of Art and STEM

Interviewed by Joelle Seligson

This interview appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Dimensions magazine.nicholas_bell221

If you follow at least one culturally minded Washington, D.C., resident on social media, you’ve likely seen images of WONDER. Launched with the reopening of the Smithsonian Institution’s newly renovated Renwick Gallery last November, the exhibition comprised nine contemporary works. (Two remain on view.) Each took over an entire gallery, filling the museum with rainbows of thread, a model of the Chesapeake Bay made from fiberglass marbles, and geometric designs fashioned from insect specimens.

Irresistibly Instagrammable—the museum even posted “Photography Encouraged” signs—the installations also happen to entice visitors interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts. In less than eight months, WONDER received more than 730,000 visitors (nearly five times the Renwick’s usual annual attendance) and 240 million impressions on Twitter and Instagram. Nicholas R. Bell, the Fleur and Charles Bresler curator-in-charge of the Renwick Gallery, weighed in on how WONDER has accomplished so much.

Read the full transcript of this interview.

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