Sci-Chella: Music + Art + Science

Science Interpreter playing guitar with Sci-Chella logo
What to expect at our newest Science After Hours experience.


Adam Piazza

When most people hear ‘Music Festival’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably not SCIENCE.  You might think crowds, gross bathrooms, a bunch of music acts they have never heard about, warm drinks, and people in flower crowns.  And while frequent festival-goers will likely confirm that the aforementioned list is very typical, the greater experience is that it's a giant experimental playground.  In recent years many scientists and educational organizations are injecting themselves into the music festival equation.  They recognize that the festival audience tends to embrace alternatives, live on the fringe, and are just plan curious - and they see opportunities to educate attendees on various unique topics including fish migration. Some insight on this trend can be read in this article which talks about what happens when science and festival culture blend, referencing a festival that I have attended in California, called Lightning In A Bottle.

While those talk about why we may inject science discussion into a music festival, does it work both ways? What if festival culture is injected into a science setting, like a museum? Well for The Franklin Institute’s upcoming Science After Hours, SciChella, we’ll look at topics at the intersections of music, science and creativity; approached through the lens of some iconic aspects of the music festival experience.  So in addition to a festival experience that is indoors---for one night only---and with cleaner bathrooms, here is a little of what you can expect at SciChella…

  1. Live Music

Performing at SciChella we will have local talent including Creem Circus, a glam rock band fronted by a man who has built guitars for musicians including Jack White. Keegan Tawa, a local producer, will be playing both a live jazz music set with his quartet and then later on DJ’ing a techno set.  These and other performances will be spread out between two stages in the museum, the Atrium Stage and the Planetarium Stage, a much shorter walk than most festival stages.

  1. Interactive art for you to take your picture with

No festival is complete without Instagram-worth moments to share with friends on social media, #MusicFestival #ScienceAfterHours.  At SciChella we will have a large scale installation by artists Lauren Cat West adding some color and whimsy to our Ben Franklin Memorial for you to enjoy. We’ll also have art made from human x-rays images, and LED infinity mirrors to just name some of the visually out-there art pieces here that night.

  1. Activities to do between musical sets

Not all of the action takes place on the stage, there are many components to a festival that allow you to socialize with friends new and old. At SciChella you will find dozens of activities to engage with like learning about the vinyl record making process with Softwax Record Pressing, or festival inspired fitness lessons including hula hooping and other flow arts. 

  1. Hydration Stations

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially at an outdoor festival during the summer, so we will have the Philadelphia Water Department on site with their festival inspired Water Bar and scientist to talk about Philadelphia’s tap water, offer samples, and dive into the science of water purification.

  1. Totems

To get an idea of what totems are in festival culture, just take a quick look at this guide outlining the do’s and don’ts of the totem. So weather you love them or hate them, these ‘beacons’ allow for a great expression of creativity and guests at SciChella will get to make their own tiny fact-totems, miniature signs populated by mini science facts and of course googly eyes and pipe-cleaners. Our staff will also get in on the totem fun, which leads us to our last item in our list of what to expect at SciChella….

Science Interpreters holding totems for Science After Hours Sci-Chella

  1. A roving cast of characters

You may never know if the ensemble of 5 people on stilts and fairy costumes you run into are paid staff or just attendees who really know how to coordinate outfits but either way, they create memorable moments throughout your time exploring the festival grounds. One group of roving characters you will find at SciChella are our ‘SenseSations,’ 5 scientists in out-there fashion, wielding totems representing each of our 5 basic senses. Find one and you may go on a miracle berry triggered flavor trip, be tricked by auditory illusions or have any of your other senses challenged. Other members of our roving cast of characters include a one man band and a trio of artists and musicians who will work with guests doing quick illustrations inspired by the music played in that moment.

Most museums are already experimental playgrounds for guests to learn, discover, play and create - this just make it louder, brighter and bolder! 



About the author

Adam Piazza

Adam Piazza is the curator of Science After Hours and other adult programs at the museum. When not at the museum you can find him attending music festivals and concerts, sometimes presenting science content along the way proving that no place is too strange to spread some science.