EyeWire Inspired Subway Train Art

neuon train photo by Steve Weinik

A group of students in Philly digitally wrapped an entire subway train in neurons – inspired by EyeWire! Learn more about this amazing creative process in a guest post by Ben Volta:

During the 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama announced his support of a new initiative to map the human brain. Inspired by the BRAIN initiative, students in the Mural Arts LEAPs program worked with Benjamin Volta at Volta Studio to explore the many interconnections between art, creativity and the brain. The team explored the history of transit art alongside current research in neuroscience and brain imaging. After weeks of investigation, the students created hundreds of drawings that were compiled to create a colorful brain map, which will wrap the exterior of a subway car on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line. Stepping inside the train, the micro becomes macro: riders will be able to walk through a visual presentation of the studio process, laid out in a series of posters.

SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line links people to thousands of real-world connections every day, which makes it the perfect vehicle for reflecting on the amazing networks inside our brains and for marveling at the interdependent galaxies that lie hidden just below our surface.

Ben Reports:

We had a computer projecting Eyewire in the studio for a few weeks. I walked them through the interface and they found it really fascinating – a few were really into it.
Nikailya shared with me at the dedication that she thinks about the project, neurons and how amazing her brain is almost everyday.

EyeWire Virtual Lab TourMofey was one of the students who got the virtual tour of your lab. [EyeWire gave these students a virtual lab tour via Google Hangout] At the end of our workshops she expressed to me how this project has allowed her to see herself as a neuroscientist and that she never imagined it could be so exciting to study the brain.

Ben says of his work: “I love my work as an artist because it often allows me to meet and connect with people doing great things. Connecting to us and giving us a tour really meant much to my students and me.”

Artwork Dedication Notes

“This work started with a big unknown – During the summer of 2012 I had hinted to Mural Arts that it would be fun to wrap a subway train – but I had no ideas – zero.” Says Ben.

“When I got a call that it might be possible I had a mixture of excitement and nervousness. It was the blank canvas – what do you do?”

“During his State of the Union address president Obama announced support for the BRAIN initiative, a new federal funding stream to help map the human brain.
You hear about new brain research all the time these days, and the graphics that go along with the research is often fascinating and stunning.

“What fascinated me about many neuroscientists is that they recognize that we still know very little about the human brain. With courage, they continue their work knowing that new discoveries and breakthroughs are right around the corner.

“Inspired by this courage we started our creative process with the little we did know about the brain. We explored simple logic, imagination, and how the brain has an intimate part in everything that we think and do. I met for 6 weeks with students from Waring elementary and 6 weeks in the spring and with students participating in the mural arts summer education program during the summer months.

“There was no set design. We worked trusting that the process would bring new discoveries and our own creative breakthrough. The work is the colorful drawings of neurons wrapping the exterior Of the subway train, but it is also the process shown on the posters inside the train and on the website. It is also the coming together of minds, the trail and error and the stumbling through what is often fantastic and hard to understand.

“Our brain cells allow us to experience the world, build knowledge and connect with others. The hundred billion neurons in each of our brains work like microscopic messengers, relaying our thoughts, dreams and imaginings.”

Mural Arts LEAPs
As part of our efforts to create opportunities for emerging artists, Mural Arts created LEAPs (Local Emerging Artists Projects). Mural Arts’ art education offers local artists opportunities to create small, unconventional projects in partnership with students. Students visit artists’ studios and work side-by-side with them to create temporary works of art. Each project is unique and works to expose students to contemporary art practice.

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