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Conceived in the early 2000s, A×S began at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design. Denoting “art-times-science,” the early lowercase axs was a casual shorthand used to denote a series of art/science/technology projects undertaken by the college’s Williamson Gallery. A collaborative ArtCenter/Caltech exhibition called NEURO led in 2003 to the creation of a more formalized AxS Initiative. NEURO was a partnership between the Williamson Gallery and the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering (CNSE) at Caltech, and was organized by Williamson curator Stephen Nowlin, CNSE Director Pietro Perona, and Jill H. Andrews, Caltech’s Educational Outreach Director. The three went on to oversee a request by Caltech for A×S funding to the NSF for support of additional collaborations and exhibitions. Despite being unsuccessful in raising further NSF funds, the initiative continued and led to AxS: At the Intersection of Art and Science, a 2005 two-venue exhibition and panel discussion at Caltech and the Armory Center for the Arts (co-organized with Armory gallery director Jay Belloli).

A×S expanded in early 2006 as part of the Williamson Gallery’s online network (www.artandscience.us), promoting local art-science collaborations including an archive of the 2005 Tender Land: Festival of Art, History, Music, and Science organized by the Pasadena Arts Council (PAC), as well as PAC’s 2007 Art & Ideas Festival exploring a theme of “Skin,” and their art-science parody website Freaks and Geeks Pasadena.

PAC officially launched AxS: The Pasadena Art + Science Initiative in 2008 with a two-venue series called Deep Spaces, which included the Williamson Gallery exhibition OBSERVE in collaboration with Caltech’s Spitzer Science Center, and the world premiere of The Sequence, a play about mapping the human genome at The Theatre @ Boston Court. In 2009, PAC/A×S organized a multi-venue art/science consortium of institutions with programming around the theme of “Origins,” and in July of 2010 PAC and the Spitzer Science Center, along with the Pasadena Mayor’s Office, convened a seminar of civic leaders, non-profit directors, and business CEOs on A×S and the emerging brand of Pasadena as the world’s foremost “City of Art and Science.”

The following year PAC gave its series of biennial multi-venue thematic collaborations the new name AxS: The Pasadena Art and Science Festival, with the 2011 theme of “Fire & Water,” and in 2012 it created the AxS Award, presented at the organization’s Annual Benefit to commemorate Pasadena’s historical conversation between the sciences and the arts, and to honor exceptional achievements “forged at the intersection of intuition and reason, emotion and intellect, and the union of creativity and technology.” The 2014 AxS Festival explored the theme of “Curiosity” for two weeks of exhibitions, programs, and performances, with contributions from over twenty organizational partners in the science, art, music, and performance fields.

In 2016 PAC, with leadership from Executive and Artistic Director Robert Crouch, created the AxS Incubator, a residency program providing midcareer artists with opportunities to develop new ideas, new methods, and new artistic vocabularies through research in residence at an array of participating scientific, research, technological, design, and cultural assets. Partner organizations collaborating thus far include ArtCenter and the Williamson Gallery, The Carnegie Observatories, CalArts, Desert Studies Center, Dickenson Lab at Caltech, Goentoro Lab at Caltech, LIGO at Caltech, The Shed Research Institute, and VOLUME experimental collective. Artists selected for residencies include Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, Lawrence English, Sarah Rara, and Christopher O’Leary.

As its new name implies, Fulcrum Arts has emerged from the richly creative history of the Pasadena Arts Council at a pivotal moment in the long evolutionary interplay between the arts and sciences. With its A×S Festival, A×S Award, and A×S Incubator initiatives firmly established, and from within the world center for science and art that is the city of Pasadena, Fulcrum is now poised to leverage the locally inspired AxS to its inevitable national and international resonance.