Uncovering the Science of Art

art students look at paint samples at the Dow Exposure station

This unique intersection of art and science is a wonderful demonstration of how two seemingly opposite subjects can come together in a beautiful way.

Often science, or STEM, and the arts are looked at very differently. Science can be seen as analytical and art more poetic. But what happens when they intersect?

In a serene residential area of Spring House, Pennsylvania, sits a pivotal innovation center dedicated to testing and evaluating waterborne coatings, or more commonly characterized as paint. With its impressive footprint of over 40,000 panels and over 120,000 individual paints/tests, the Dow Exposure Station conducts comprehensive evaluations that are used by our R&D team to help improve paint quality for homes and communities. Customers and leaders from the coatings and adjacent industries can study the long-term performance of paints and collaborate with us on enhancing industry standards.

For over 70 years, this research facility has helped advance the performance and quality of residential and commercial paint.  When one of our scientists saw its potential through a different lens, the Dow Exposure Station took on an expanded purpose, one at the intersection of science and art.

Mindy Keefe, R&D Director and art enthusiast, has a passion for art conservation research. She sees the science of art.

Her long-time research partner and friend, Rosie Grayburn, sees it too. Rosie is the Head of Scientific Analysis and Research Lab at Winterthur Museum which has a unique partnership with University of Delaware. Together, they offer the Winterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), one of the world’s leading art conservation programs.

Rosie and Mindy recognized the value the Dow Exposure Station could have for WUDPAC students. It is a one-of-a-kind educational platform for the next generation of art conservators, who will be tasked with the preservation of our painted cultural heritage.

Rosie and Mindy began inviting first-year graduate students in WUDPAC to visit the Dow Exposure Station and experience the importance of understanding material properties for art preservation and the value of connecting experts.

It has become an annual event for us and WUDPAC. In April 2024, thirteen students along with University of Delaware Doctoral Fellow Liora Mael visited the Dow Exposure Station. Hosted by Senior TS&D Scientist Heather Eckenrode, the elite group of students experienced an immersive educational journey. Together, they explored the site, delved into the intricacies of paint composition and aging mechanisms, and learned about the rigorous performance testing that each material undergoes.

The students also had the fun opportunity to help celebrate the 70-year anniversary of paint series 54K, which is famous in the industry for its robust performance.

“This was a special opportunity to learn about cutting edge research and evaluation methods in the paint industry,” said one of the WUDPAC graduate students. “As someone interested in paint degradation in an art historical context, I am inspired to learn about this research to preserve color and integral paint properties for generations to come.”

art students the Dow Exposure station pose for a group photo

Tracy Young, Global R&D Director for Dow’s Coatings and Performance Monomers division said: "This unique intersection of art and science is a wonderful demonstration of how two seemingly opposite subjects can come together in a beautiful way. It’s also a wonderful reminder that technical volunteerism is a powerful resource when the right groups are connected."

Bridget Dombroski, Senior TS&D Leader



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