INSECTA: A Masterclass

Recently UNE Discovery and the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) partnered to offer a two-day Masterclass for anyone interested in how insects shape our planet, our lives and our narratives. Thirteen attendees from around NSW engaged with entomologists and ecologists, artists and museum staff about insect ecology and conservation, identification, pinning and curating; as well as the artistic techniques of natural history illustration.

Day one offered a scientific perspective with Dr Manu Saunders, Dr Kirsti Abbott, Dr James O’Hanlon and Mr Steve Tremont. It began with an introduction to insect ecology and conservation, the importance of insects and their classification. A primer on collecting, pinning, curating and identifying insects followed, with participants able to collect, pin and keep their specimens. Woven throughout the day were sessions on the integral and complex role and relationship insects have with society and our planet; insect behaviour, depictions in art, culture and media, as well as entomology in Australia and citizen science.

Day two took wide eyed and curious participants to the art museum, where the interplay of insects and art were explored with NERAM’s Paper Conservator and Collections Manager Jennifer Taylor-McRae, followed by an afternoon natural history illustration workshop with artist Dr Deirdre Bean.

The foray into collaborative masterclasses was so well received that NERAM and UNE Discovery are already planning the next one. Scheduled exhibitions at NERAM as well as opportunities for skill-based workshops in the Natural History Museum perfectly combine science and art in the New England.