Right Brain/Left Brain

I am not usually star struck or more impressed by celebrities I meet than I am of people I meet in the general course of my life, but for about 10-15 years now, I have sincerely admired one person– Danica McKellar. Most people know her as Winnie from The Wonder Years, though she has been in quite a number of shows and movies since then.

What earned my admiration was the fact that she did not define herself as a person by her celebrity and has earned laurels in other areas upon which she can rest her reputation. In addition to her on screen involvement, she has a BA in Math from UCLA and has a math proof named after her. For a long time now, she has devoted time on her website to helping kids with math problems and has been the spokesperson for Figure This!, a website that provides math challenges for families to work on together.

Given that I was so awful at math in school, her involvement helping other people in this field of study has been enough to make her my hero for a long time now.

I found a very interesting Studio 360 session with her as a guest that discusses the right brain/left brain connection between the Arts and Math. Her segment begins about 11 minutes into the show, but her comments intertwine with other interviews. The first is Eve Beglarian, a composer who explores the use of math in music. There is also a story on David Galenson, an economist who is using quantitative measures like regression analysis and statistics to figure out what artists are trying to say and at what time in artists lives do they produce the most creative works.

There are some interesting commentary by Danica and Eve about how their math lives/mindset and artistic lives/mindset were almost violently in conflict with each other socially and internally. In some cases, they say their right brain and left brain activities are often mutually exclusive. At the same time, they discuss the aesthetic beauty inherent to pure math and the fact that the solutions to right brain activities lay in left and vice versa.

The third story on Studio 360 addresses the right/left conflict pointing out that usually those skilled in math are usually portrayed in movies and television as abnormal- they are borderline insane or anti-social or idiot-savants. McKellar acknowledges that mathematicians can tend to become absorbed in their work and seem a little flighty at times, but in general, the characterization is more of a caricature than reality.

A pretty interesting series of stories all in all. The program is rather long to listen to in its entirety, but fortunately the individual interview segments are broken out as separate links so one can return to the webpage to listen to each section separately without having to scroll through to the appropriate time stamp.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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