Discovering da Vinci in Hull

If my school days were anything to go by, art and science haven’t always gone hand-in-hand. Like a particularly depressing school disco, conventional wisdom means creative types sit over on one side, science-y types on the other.

That view is changing in Hull, with the Amy Johnson Festival STEAM-ing ahead to explore the beautiful and fascinating connection between art, design, science and engineering.

Along these lines, one of this year’s Amy Johnson Festival highlights is ‘Da Vinci Engineered’, an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s flight and wind machines presented alongside the work of 12 contemporary artists in Zebedee’s Yard, Hull.

‘The exhibition demonstrates the links between art and engineering,’ explains Rick Welton, Festival Director at the Amy Johnson Festival, ‘reminding people that the creativity of the artist and the practical ingenuity of the engineer are two sides of the same coin.’

The 12 faithful reproductions of da Vinci’s inventions are on loan from Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence. ‘It’s the first time that these particular models have been seen in the UK’ says Rick, giving visitors in Hull a unique chance to see the Renaissance master’s genius up close.

Da Vinci’s machines sit side by side with contemporary artworks, ranging from interactive sculptures to paper feathers, each exploring different aspects of the relationship between creativity, engineering and flight. ‘Sabine Bieli’s delicate work, ‘Hatched’, made from fine threads and mohair, is a stand-out piece that creates wings that seem to float on the air’ explains Rick.

‘I do especially like the interactivity of Savinder Bual’s propellers too’ says Rick, ‘and so do the many young people have been to the exhibition.’

The festival’s organisers are hopeful that the exhibition can inspire children and young people to think about careers in design and engineering, challenging the conventional wisdom that drives a wedge between art and science. ‘It’s been interesting watching school groups sketching the da Vinci works’ Rick says, ‘and then tackling the practical matter of building their own wing from sticks made out of rolled up newspapers’.

The Amy Johnson Festival continues this month with plenty more events and exhibitions that explore the parallels between art and engineering. The festival celebrates the life of Hull’s aviatrix Amy Johnson, with ‘Amy Johnson – A Life in Pictures’ taking an intimate look at Amy’s incredible life through a series of exhibitions and a hardback book filled with photos.

Look out for Maker Fest too (‘a day of crazy inventions and craft works’ says Rick), plus a brand new statue of Amy to be unveiled in September, and the premiere of a new dance commission for the festival at the Stage@theDock on Sunday 28 August.

Find out more about what’s coming up at the Amy Johnson Festival 2016 at