Peer through the lens of the arts to discover the hidden world of microscopic organisms at In a Time of Change: Microbial Worlds. Fourteen artists and writers magnify the microbiome in this collaborative exhibit sponsored by the arts-humanities-science consortium, In a Time of Change.

The exhibit includes original art works and writings by Alaskan artists Susan Campbell, Annie Duffy, Nancy Hausle-Johnson, Jessie Hedden, Eric Henderson, Mariah Henderson, Margo Klass, Debbie Clarke Moderow, Jennifer Moss, Ree Nancarrow, Gail Priday, and Sara Tabbert, as well as San Diego artist Charlotte Bird and Brooklyn artist Stephanie Rae Dixon. Mary Beth Leigh, an Associate Professor of Microbiology at UAF, directed the project.

Microbial Worlds is the culmination of 16 months of collaborative work by visual artists, writers, and scientists on the topic of microorganisms. Microbes are the most numerous and diverse organisms on the planet; they include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae and viruses. While some cause disease and contribute to climate change, others are responsible for promoting human health, removing toxins from the environment, and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Under the leadership of Leigh, artists met monthly for 16 months. With Leigh and other scientists, they learned about microbiology through lectures, laboratory activities, and field trips to Toolik Field Station, Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, and the UAF trails to learn about mushrooms and to view microbes frozen in ice on Smith Lake. Artists were also loaned microscopes in support of their independent research. The artists interacted with over 30 scientists through the course of the program, ranging from infectious disease microbiologists to ecosystem ecologists.

Visual artists in the program then developed works inspired by the world of microorganisms, including their visual beauty and many roles in human and environmental health. The artistic media represented includes painting, sculpture, tile, printmaking, textile art, artist books, writing, and multimedia works. Memoir writer Debbie Clarke Moderow and poet/artist Susan Campbell wrote pieces inspired by the microbial world. Together they will give a literary reading at Well Street Art Co.  The First Friday opening, February 3, 5-8 pm, also featured live DNA analysis and dance as part of a multimedia installation focusing on decomposition.


ITOC Microbial Worlds Brochure
ITOC: Microbial Worlds Brochure (Download PDF)
ITOC: Microbial Worlds Fairbanks Exhibition Poster
ITOC: Microbial Worlds Fairbanks Exhibition Poster



Directed by Mary Beth Leigh
Curated by Annie Duffy

Mary Beth Leigh
Mary Beth Leigh
ITOC Director, Microbiologist, Dancer
IAB Faculty Page
Charlotte Bird
Fiber Art: Quilts
Susan Campbell
Susan Campbell
Poetry and Artist Books
Stephanie Rae Dixon
Stephanie Rae Dixon
Costumer, Multi Media Artist stephanieraedixon.com
Annie Duffy
Annie Duffy
Painting, Sculpture, and Mixed Media
Nancy Hausle-Johnson
Nancy Hausle-Johnson
Tile Artist
Jessie Hedden
Jessie Hedden
Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson
Sculpture, Mixed Media
Mariah Henderson
Mariah Henderson
Painting, Mixed Media
Margo Klass
Margo Klass
Box Constructions, Artist Books
Debbie Moderow
Debbie Clarke Moderow
Author: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction
Jennifer Moss
Jennifer Moss
Painting, Digital Art
Ree Nancarrow
Ree Nancarrow
Fiber Art: Quilts
Gail Priday
Gail Priday
Painting, Printmaking, Collage
Sarah Tabbert
Sara Tabbert
Printmaking and Carved Wood


Upcoming Events

November 11 – December 6, 2019
Lightwell Gallery
University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

April, 2020
The Little Gallery
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

June-Sept, 2020
The Pratt Museum
Homer, Alaska 

Previous Events

June 21-July 31, 2019

UAF Art Department Gallery
Fine Arts Complex
Fairbanks, Alaska

June 8-July 31, 2018

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
West Ridge Research Building, Suite 212

January 5-29, 2018

In a Time of Change: Microbial Worlds
Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, AK
Leah J. Peterson Gallery & Conoco Philips Gallery

With literary reading with participating artist/writers Debbie Clarke Moderow and Susan Campbell

Dec. 2, 2017 – May 20, 2018

Vanhallina Museum (near Turku, Finland)

Portions of the multimedia installation “De:composition” by Stephanie Rae Dixon in collaboration with Mary Beth Leigh were on exhibit in Finland as part of a larger 60-year retrospective exhibition on the science and art activities at Kevo Subarctic Research Station. 

October 6-28, 2017

In a Time of Change: Microbial Worlds
Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Gallery, Juneau, Alaska

February 3-27, 2017

In a Time of Change: Microbial Worlds
Well Street Art Company, Fairbanks, AK

Premier exhibition. Included a literary reading with participating artist/writers Debbie Clarke Moderow and Susan Campbell



Microbial Worlds is the fifth major art-science project presented by the In a Time of Change (ITOC) program. ITOC was founded in 2008 by artists and scientists in Fairbanks with support from UAF and the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research program. ITOC recognizes that the arts, humanities, and sciences bring different, yet synergistic perspectives and reactions to the natural world. Collaborations between the arts, humanities and sciences engage people at the intellectual, intuitive, and emotional levels, and strengthen their appreciation for the environments and ecosystems in which they live. Combining these diverse perspectives also yields greater success in solving complex environmental problems and promoting outreach and education than science alone. ITOC was co-founded and is directed by Mary Beth Leigh, an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Wildlife and the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Leigh is an environmental microbiologist with a background in the fine arts as a dancer, choreographer, and musician. She has a strong interest in fostering collaborative arts-humanities-science activities.