Where art and science collide

Peter McMullin AM and Ruth McMullin donated a visionary $4M to Science Gallery Melbourne to build the gallery’s new home within the University’s innovation precinct, Melbourne Connect. Their gift has since been leveraged  to secure more donations from other generous individuals and organisations.

Art and science have long been pitted against each other as competing schools of thought. And for many young people, the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) have become characterised as intimidating or unattainable along the way.

The removal of the inspiring and creative elements of STEM is not only misleading – it also poses a serious threat to the future of Australia’s STEM industries.

Worryingly, Australia is lagging compared to our competitors. While international research indicates that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills and knowledge, Australian schools are showing a decline in the rates of participation in ‘science’ subjects to the lowest level in 20 years, according to official reports.

Experiment meets exhibition

Science Gallery is an award-winning global network of galleries that is bridging this gap. It’s helping more young people feel inspired by the innovative scientific discoveries that improve our lives, thanks to the captivating nature of art.

Showcasing two major exhibitions annually, along with pop-up exhibitions and online interactive content, Science Gallery Melbourne is described as a living laboratory. It places young people at its heart – actively involving 15 to 25-year olds – and showcases provocative topics and themes such as our society’s throwaway culture in the exhibition DISPOSABLE, and the curious-yet-repulsive nature of blood in BLOOD.

One way the gallery captivates its young audience is through its Mediators – dedicated young adults who love all things science and art and draw out visitors’ thoughts and ideas on the works.

“Science communication is the vehicle to get science to more people,” explained one Mediator.

If we can’t communicate these big ideas, then they don’t go anywhere.

Science Gallery Mediator with a young visitor

A Science Gallery Melbourne Mediator discussing  an exhibit with a young visitor.

Seeing with new eyes

Even through the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, Science Gallery Melbourne reached nearly 4000 school students in 2021 through class excursions, online programs, and workshops.

One program, the STEM Centre of Excellence funded through the Department of Education and Training, partners with 25 local secondary schools to foster scientific curiosity in students and improve teachers’ capability in teaching STEM subjects.

Of all the students who participated in the program in 2021, 85 per cent said the program motivated them to explore new ideas, and 73 per cent felt confident to design solutions to solve challenges that were related to real life.

Another Science Gallery Melbourne program FEMME STEM is empowering female identifying and non-binary people in secondary school to pursue a career in STEM. The program gives students a platform to share their ideas, a safe environment to grow their voice, and a supportive network of leading women and peers in STEM.

Supporting a STEM future

Peter and Ruth announced their visionary $4M gift to Science Gallery Melbourne during National Science Week in 2019, recognising its value in shaping Australia’s future in STEM.

Peter and Ruth are thrilled with the impact their support is having:

The Gallery provides experiences that are transformative at a crucial time in a young person’s life. We believe Science Gallery will have a lasting impact on the future and consider this gift an investment in Australia’s next generation of scientific and creative trailblazers.

The team at Science Gallery Melbourne are also grateful to its other incredible partners including PACCAR, The Hugh DT Williamson Foundation, DCF Property, Chartered Accountants ANZ, BASF Australia, Toyota, VicHealth, Florey Institute of Neuroscience, Kvadrat Maharam, Telstra, and the Gordon Darling Foundation. The Victorian State Government also supports this award-winning initiative significantly.

Peter and Ruth McMullin

Peter and Ruth McMullin

Art giving science life

As a scientist himself, VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio knows that walls are too often built around STEM disciplines. He feels privileged to champion Science Gallery Melbourne through VicHealth by supporting its efforts in breaking those barriers down.

“Art brings science to life and makes it less scary,” he said. “Hopefully, it means more young people from diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences feel safe, welcome, and gain a sense of belonging in the incredible world of STEM.”