BeatRoute’s Guide to Beakerhead: Where art, science and engineering collide

Friday 11th, September 2015 / 14:44
By Skye Anderson

BH-FireballCALGARY —

Background info.

Calgary is known as an oil and gas city; but beyond that, many local artists, engineers and technologists are shaping the world in bright, explorative, wacky, innovative, daring, stimulating, and mind-blowing ways.

It all brilliantly started when Mary Anne Moser and Jay Ingram identified a gap between artists and engineers wanting to work together, and intended to find a way to bridge that gap. Both Moser and Ingram, members of the Banff Science Communications Program, co-founded Beakerhead; a series of educational programs for kids grades K-12. The programs aim to spark an interest in the arts and science fields and for kids to have a better understanding of what artists and engineers do. Beakerhead is involved with many Calgary schools, providing hands-on activities throughout the year, all related to arts and science.

Marketing and communications director Michelle Htun-Kay says that Beakerhead week was created to compliment the year-round programs and to engage not only kids in art, science and engineering, but adults and parents as well.

“What you will see at Beakerhead week is everything is catered to everyone,” Htun-Kay says. “We try to showcase as much of Calgary as possible.”

For its third year running, Beakerhead week will be spread across 24 various locations in Calgary from Sept. 16-20. This year there will be 148 local artists and engineers involved with the event, and 30 international.

Over the course of Beakerhead week people can experience a “6-400-square-foot sandbox”, play fire-spitting skee ball and see a robotic dragonfly.

“With Beakerhead each year our intentions are to bring the smash up of art, science and engineering to different places that are unexpected,” Htun-Kay says.

Music @ Beakerhead

GZA, founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, kicks off the opening night of Beakerhead week at Fort Calgary, the hub of the events. Also known as ‘The Genius,” GZA is a huge advocate for science, appearing last year at a TedxTeen talk saying, “Hip-hop is my vehicle to scientific and universal enlightenment.”

Pop artist Clara Venice will also perform, demonstrating her wonderful talent of mastering the theremin, one of the first electronic instruments. When radio wave transmissions between the theremin’s antennas are interfered with the wave of the  hand, the operator is able to control both the frequency and volume without touching the instrument. The eerie, supernatural sound combined with Venice’s enticing vocals and 3D projections offers an exciting fusion of art and science.

The Rock n’ Roll History of Space Exploration the Mars Edition is dubbed as a “visual and musical” journey. Hosting the event is Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Earlier this year it was announced that he would be going into space by 2024. Jay Ingram’s band, Jay and the Cosmonaut’s, will be adding the musical component to the night.

BH-VeniceA (String) Theory of Incredible Encounters

This year, people can experience “pop-up” gallery that is within a five-kilometre circumference from centre of Calgary. A String (Theory) of Incredible Encounters will feature indoor and outdoor exhibitions and can be seen throughout all of Beakerhead week.

Intrude, by Australian artist Amanda Parer, makes its Canadian debut this year after showing in London, Belgium, Sweden and France. The exhibit sends a subtle yet important environmental message— the giant, illuminated “intruding” rabbits set up in Central Memorial Park, remind Calgarians that these furry creatures also share the city’s habitat.

In/Flux is a remarkable display of how organic matter can be reused in multiple ways. Architects Vlad Amiot and Spencer Cutten, motivated to build packing materials out of compostable material, creatively designed a structure made up of mushroom spores and agricultural waste. This interactive piece of art will can be seen at 11th Street and Kensington Road NW.

Several other exhibitions by local artists are featured in the pop-up gallery at various locations in Inglewood, Kensington, 17th Avenue, and Victoria Park.

The Gorgeous Libation Event

Another pop-up exhibit is the pop-up bar, famous for their exclusivity they’ve garnered attention in major cities such as New York and London. For one night only, organizers were able to get permission to put a pop-up in the historical, art-moderne Barron Building, which has been sitting dormant for a number of years. Built 1949, it was the first office hi-rise designed to attract people to Calgary after the Leduc oil strike, providing the budding oil industry with an administrative hub.

In association with Absolut Vodka and Big Rock Brewery, the pop-up happens on Sept. 18. For which Big Rock will be creating a special Beakerhead beer. The lounge is going to be lit up and glowing, a visual masterpiece and gorgeous libation.

Cooking with Crickets: the healthy alternative?

The idea of eating crickets is unsettling to most people, but those with an open mind could see some health benefits from ingesting the chirping insect.

“There is lots and lots of protein in them,” Htun-Kay says. “And other nutritional elements versus beef, chicken and pork.” She also notes a significant environmental factor, claiming that the emissions produced from raising cattle, chicken and pork is much higher than those from farming crickets.

Beakerhead is bringing in Aspire Food Group, an organization committed to helping “economically challenged or malnourished populations” learn how to obtain protein and other nutrients from available insects, such as crickets. Bugs and Beer is happening Sept. 16 at the Palomino where cricket-farming expert Robert Nathan Allen, from Aspire Food Group, will be talking about the world of crickets; suggesting a more sustainable alternative to get the nutrients people need. “Have a beer, and instead of popping peanuts, try some salted covered crickets,” says Htun-Kay.

Allen will also be doing the Cooking with Crickets workshop, partnering with Slow Food Calgary on Sept. 19 located at Cookbook Co. culinary school downtown. In addition to having high levels of protein, cricket powder has significantly more iron and calcium than beef parts. Participants will learn how to cook with cricket flour, which is apparently quite similar to wheat flour.

This year’s Beakerhead takes place Sept. 16-20 throughout Calgary. For more information about Beakerhead, tickets, registration, programs and events visit their website at


, , ,