Nobel 59 Opening Procession Brings the Gustavus Spirit to Life Posted on October 27th, 2023 by

On October 3 and 4, Gustavus Adolphus College hosted the 59th Nobel Conference. This year’s conference, “Insects: Little Body, Big Impact”,  addressed the disproportionate effects insects have on human life and aimed to bring awareness to the essential role these beings play in allowing the earth to flourish.

Having had the honor of hosting the Nobel Conference since 1965, Gustavus takes immense pride in putting together an event that so closely intertwines the scientific community with the humanities and arts. Interlaying art, dance, and musical performances throughout the lectures, the Conference presents the rare opportunity to combine all aspects of the Gustavus spirit into one unifying event.

This year’s opening procession, a multifaceted performance inspired by fireflies, was no exception. “The initial idea came from Professor Margaret Bloch Qazi who had a vision for a light and sound show modeled after the activity of fireflies,” says Professor Priscilla Briggs, a member of the Nobel planning committee.

To evoke the notion of fireflies Dr. Dave Stamps, director of the Gustavus Jazz Ensemble, created an original four-part composition to which media artist Dave Ryan programmed a display of LED lights that interacted with the music. The final piece of the puzzle, Professor Melissa Rolnick added choreography inspired by various insects’ flight patterns and movements. The end result was a stunning display of the embodiment of Gustavus: the intersection of science, art, and humanities.

About what it was like watching this idea come to life, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications Barb Larson Taylor says “It is amazing to watch creative people at work; to see a spark emerge in a discussion about if a processional could be more like the orderly walking of ants or the purposeful yet appearing to be the spontaneous flickering of a firefly and how perhaps a firefly is like jazz.”

“Typically the topic of the Nobel Conference is not in our area of expertise, and sometimes the topic touches are life yet we have not thought about it deeply. That is why it is incredible each year to see what happens when faculty and students do pause to think about how the topic interests with their area of interest,” says Larson Taylor. The Nobel Conference presents the unique opportunity to display the spirit of Gustavus as the sciences conjoin with the arts to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all those involved.


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