Center for Microbiome Sciences & Therapeutics, University of Washington

Vivo Art

Art to advance science.


Why collaborate
with an artist?

The rapid advancement in scientific technologies and innovations could easily seem like fiction to the casual observer. It seems that each day gives us new examples in which a future could be imagined where we have the capabilities to radically transform human life in a laboratory.  Embodying these concepts, and pushing the boundaries of science are central themes present in a recently growing field of art called bio or sciart, art works created using scientific processes. In contrast, a new type of medicine is being embraced by the medical field, which uses music, dance, and painting in the rehab and care of patients. 

Despite these successful examples of art and science merging together, the relationship between biomedical research and art hasn’t been quite as successful. Biomedical-art relationships tend to ask dynamic and existential questions, such as ‘what constitutes life’, ‘what is a human being’ and ‘who are we?’  While interesting, these science-based art projects do not often include research for the sake of science.

In addition to using bioart as a means to communicate with the public, through this initiative, Vivo Art, it is our aim to use art to advance science. In fact, our cornerstone pipeline, “Isolation & Cultivation / Batch ID,” was developed and refined through collaboration with one of our artists.

Using art allows us to think outside of the box and to create hypothesis-based questions or to find answers to questions in bio-medical research that have been otherwise unsolvable using traditional scientific processes.


“Scientists aren’t always so good at making science accessible to other people, but to be able to convey what you do and why it matters is vital. Kathy’s images can tell a story better than any dense academic paper.”

— Will for UW Medicine’s The Huddle


Current Artists

Kathy High
Tyler Fox

Bioart is a contemporary art form that adapts scientific methods and biotechnology to explore living systems as artistic subjects.

— Yetisen et. al. Cell Press 2105


Kathy High

Professor of Video
& New Media
Department of Arts
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY


About Kathy

As part of CMiST Vivo Art, world-renowned bio-artist Kathy High has a recurring artist residency in DePaolo Lab. Kathy is an artist, but also a person who suffers from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Her passion for trying to understand this complex disease is part of her art. Kathy has been commissioned to do an art exhibition in the fall of 2017 with a focus on IBD and the microbiome. Kathy has shown her work across the US, as well as Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Ireland and the UK, and is a Guggenheim fellowship recipient. For more about Kathy, visit her website here.


Project: Family BioCrest

Family BioCrest is a research project looking at the microbiota and micro-organisms that inhabit our gut using art as the medium to communicate the findings, "My goal is to illustrate that the gut microbiota is shared and influenced by those living in a communal environment. Through this project, I hope to discover if family members share similar (or dissimilar) gut microbes because they share a living environment and possibly share a gut bacterial / fungal community signature and profile." As part of this project, a 3D “family (bio)crest” noting the significant similarities will be awarded to families who donate fecal samples.



Will compared his samples to those of his chocolate lab, Sydney, as part of the Family BioCrest project with Kathy.

Take a look at the video

All those kisses and nose snuffles have more of an effect on a pet owner’s physiology than you might expect. William DePaolo, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, notes in his research that we share up to 50 percent of our gut biome with our dogs. This mixing of the biome is good for you, because it protects against the onset of asthma, allergies and some infectious diseases.

kenneth raining black.png

Tyler Fox

Human Centered Design
& Engineering
University of Washington
Seattle, WA


About Tyler

Tyler is an artist, researcher, technologist, and educator. His work focuses on the ways in which nonhuman relations shape our experience of, and relationship to, the surrounding world. His teaching fosters interdisciplinary research by nourishing student-centered projects that incorporate critical theory into practice-based research. For more information about Tyler, visit his website here.


Project: Microbial Music

Tyler’s work explores the interaction of technology with a given biological process. In his current project, Fermentum, Tyler uses sensors to sonify the real-time fermentation of kimchi and sauerkraut.

During fermentation, competition between the bacteria occurs, where only one survives. In addition to the sugars, alcohols, gases, etc. that are produced during this process, sound is created. Using a few basic pieces of equipment, Tyler records these sounds.

But arts and sciences should be like mines, where the noise of new works and further advances is heard on every side.

— Sir Francis Bacon


Support Vivo Art

We are thankful for your support in any amount.

Support for this initiative will allow us to continue to use art to advance science as well as host events specifically for the community. In the comments section please specify this project by writing “Vivo Art.”


Collaborate with Vivo Art

We’re always interested in collaborating with new bio-artists and artists.
If you’re interested in working with CMiST or possibly an artist-in-residence in our lab and are currently funded send us an email and share your thoughts.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels.jpg