Science Meets Art: An Interview With Dan Hu

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Science Meets Art: An Interview With Dan Hu

Hannah Noh, School News Editor

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The Academy Chronicle recently sat down with AAST junior Dan Hu to discuss his involvement in both the sciences and the humanities, in hopes of obtaining a general understanding of what this double-interest may be like for some BCA students.


AC: I understand that you’re a BCA student active outside of your academy. Can you explain how you got involved as a STEM student in the art world?

DH: I think that calling myself only a STEM student might not be the most accurate, actually. I entered BCA as part of the science academy (AAST), obviously interested in science, but I eventually also discovered a passion in art. So, I’m thankful that AAST let me pursue science while also being flexible in that it allowed me to try new things; I was able to take electives and have the free hours to get involved in more art.


AC: I’m sure most BCA students like myself have noticed the enlivening of the basement walls. As a co-founder and leader of ColorInBCA, can you tell me what this club does/has done, and what its objectives are?

DH: ColorInBCA’s simple goal is to paint that section of the hallway in the basement, although our club was originally dedicated to meditation in Dr. Dogru’s room. We had begun to notice that the basement area around our classroom needed more life, so we decided to bring people together to enliven the hallway a little bit. We wanted to gather different students to work together on something that wasn’t exactly related to homework, and that felt good to do.


AC: You created a short film for the Visible Poetry Project. Can you tell me about how you got involved in making short films, and what yours was about?

DH: I think that filmmaking is what I’m most interested in, beyond painting or even photography. I first got involved in filmmaking through Ms. Berwick’s project, which I saw as an opportunity to explore videography – something I’d developed a curiosity for in middle school. I don’t think that the video I created for her was all that good, but it was a start. After that, I co-directed a music video for my friend Joyce.


On the other hand, the Visible Poetry Project was kind of an accident. To rewind and explain what the Visible Poetry Project actually is, it’s an organization that matches thirty filmmakers to thirty poets. Each filmmaker interprets his or her given poem into an original short film. For one entire month, this project releases thirty short films, one for each day!


To tell you the truth, I actually submitted my writing to the Visible Poetry Project, which got rejected. But, Mr. Weems recommended also filling out the filmmaker application, so I said to myself, Why not? I definitely didn’t think they would choose me, especially because I didn’t have much material. After being chosen, it was really cool to work with the poet I was paired with – a professor from northern California – and to organize the production of this short film. The poem was about a man still loving his wife even after she bites off his finger during an argument. It was a complex topic to deal with. I actually went about it literally, so my short film depicted the husband holding up a bag of ice with his finger in it.


What was most challenging was definitely managing and directing on a tight budget and schedule. It forced me to be resourceful, and I’m really thankful for the support of the cast and crew and others.  I realized how much I really love doing this. Filmmaking is definitely something I want to do more of in the future.


AC: I’m sure many people know about your photography instagram, @calmygoingwild. Our Academy Chronicle print editions have also become popular for their layouts, which you design. Can you talk about your inspirations in photography and design?

DH: I actually never thought that photography was something that I’d do a lot of. I was mildly interested in it during middle school, and then I took Mr. Guthrie’s elective here at BCA, which introduced me to a whole new side of photography. But I’d say that the moment I really got involved in photography was during the summer of 2017. I participated in a summer program with the New York Times, through which I took part in a New York City photojournalism challenge. During those two weeks, I took about 2,000 pictures. (Compared to the number of pictures I take now, it’s not a lot, but at the time, that was the most photo-taking I’d ever done.) I don’t exactly think that I was good or bad at it; I just liked doing it so I kept doing it.


Then later that summer, I took a cruise to Alaska where I took a bunch of pictures. They mostly just sat there until I started CalmlyGoingWild in January. Every other day, I color-edit an old picture to post on Instagram. I usually do that on the bus to school, just like I did this morning. You see, I could either study or color-edit. And one of them I like more than the other…


AC: What is it like being a STEM student heavily involved in arts and humanities? Do you plan on pursuing art in your future? Have you discovered through BCA which one fits you?

DH: I think that STEM is very important in understanding our world and in becoming well-rounded. It’s important to learn how to express yourself through art, while also thinking analytically to find an objective truth. I feel like science and art are really tied together in this way.


I wouldn’t mind a STEM career, but I feel like the arts and humanities make it easier for me to pursue ideas that I otherwise would leave alone. . For example, ColorInBCA was one of those spontaneous ideas that just kind of happened.


On the other hand, in college, I definitely want to continue film and journalism. I think  that those are my two greatest passions. Although in regard to majors, I’m interested in cognitive science, I think that what I said earlier about the connections between STEM and art definitely still applies.


And I think that I’ve been able to discover these interests through BCA friends and teachers, who have really helped me to grow as a person. Everyone here is doing something really cool – beyond homework. So with every new person I meet, I realize how much potential everyone has. This got me to think, what am I doing? I discovered that if you just go and do whatever it is that interests you – although it’s scary – it’s worth it.


AC: Have there been any obstacles/struggles associated with your following a different path than other students within your academy? Would you say it’s difficult to pursue both science and art at the same time?

DH: There’s definitely difficulty in balancing schoolwork, so I try to be really organized with my time management. I still have major problems with it – just this weekend I handed in three assignments five minutes before they were due. Definitely, time is the hardest thing to deal with, but I’ve found that when you’re really passionate about something you can always make time for it.


AC: Would you say there’s a stigma/assumption (in both BCA and in general) that STEM and art do not mix? Do you think they’re categorized into completely separate fields with completely separate types of people?

DH: I think to a certain extent, yes, because there are plenty of STEM students I know who aren’t interested in anything remotely artistic and there are plenty of art students who aren’t interested at all in science. But I think rather than a stigma, it’s just a separation that exists between STEM and art students.


AC: Is it rare to find students at BCA who branch out of their academies? Or who choose to focus on totally different trajectories?

DH: I don’t think it’s that rare. Many of the people who I’ve gotten to know on a personal level have made me realize that everyone does a lot more than I initially thought. Or they’re passionate about some things that I didn’t know about before. I think it’s really great that people are open about doing what they really love, and that they find a purpose in life doing them. But I do wish we had less homework so that we’d have more time to pursue these things.


AC: Why do you think that’s the case? Do you think this has something to do with us choosing our academies as eighth graders?

DH: I think our school’s “academies” do kind of fit each student into something bigger than just schoolwork. My initially choosing science meant that I first came to BCA with my mind geared towards science. But this was only the case before I finally found the courage to branch out and try things that I hadn’t tried before. So even though the academies sort of fit you into a mold that you might not know you’re getting yourself into (especially since we choose our academies in eighth grade), I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I think if I had too much freedom – if there weren’t academies, I mean – then I would have actually felt more lost.


AC: And lastly, as a senior, do you have any advice for underclassmen in STEM who wish to pursue the arts, and vice versa?

DH: I think the most important thing to remember to make time for things that are important to you– not your parents, or your teachers, or society. Go and do something that makes you feel more fulfilled, something that you can look back on and be content with. It’s not amazing advice, but I definitely have cut away from sleep to devote time to my passions. And also, never stop going out to meet new people because you can learn a lot about yourself through them! Again, it takes courage but it really is worth it. For me, I just kept telling myself that I didn’t want to one day look back and think, what did I do with my life? So I was like, let’s just start changing that right now.


Thank you to Dan Hu for participating in this interview, and the Academy Chronicle looks forward to seeing what great things he will do in the future!