Da Vinci’s helicopter ignites passion for art

History to inspire: Ballarat artist Carla Maxwell’s Da Vinci flying machine is inspiring Victorian children to love both science and art. Picture: Kate Healy
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DURING the Renaissance period, art and science were partners in the quest for knowledge and enlightenment.

Fast-forward to 2016, and the two schools of endeavour are still working together, but this time with a contemporary twist.

Ballarat artist Carla Maxwell has crafted a miniature Da Vinci flying machine, which she hooks up to computers receiving coded commands, making them spin the way Leonardo wanted them to.

Da Vinci was known as a man obsessed with the concept of flight and also of making humans airborne like birds.

While his elaborate and beautiful sketches never produced a machine that actually worked, his designs are revered for theiringenuity and ahead-of-their-time conceptualisations.

Mrs Maxwell’s models are currently touring regional Victoria, giving children the opportunity to explore the invention of flight some 400 years later.

It’s a perfect blending of not only art and science, but a clever way to introduce children to computer coding.

Mrs Maxwell said if Da Vinci had been alive today, he would have been very much a “STEM”, an acronym forScience,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics used in the educational curriculum, man.

“We just brought it into the 21stcentury. If he was around now I’m sure he would have been into computers, and in fact he did make a computer,” she said.

She said the process of building a flying machine was a “richer task” than simply learning about either just sculpturalart or engineering.

“It’s not just saying, ‘hey, let’s build this’, it’s also about linking in history,” she said.

“Da Vinci’s helicopters never flew, but it’s the turning of the corkscrew mechanism to create a lift-off or pull. It’s that discovery or invention that he spearheaded…and 500 years later we are looking at these key events of history and we’re exploring how that mechanism works.”

The helicopter workshop is currently being run at theColacOtway Performing Arts Centre.

Mrs Maxwell’s studio in Ballarat is a multi-functional space full of incredible art-blending technology designed to inspire and excite young minds.

Stop-motion claymation sets, green screens andanimation setups are just some of the electronic or engineering contraptions she uses in her workshops.

Mrs Maxwell started off completing a visual arts degree at the Victorian College for the Arts, working insculptural clothing and artworks from a shopfront in Collingwood.

She and her husband moved to Ballarat in the hopes of increasing their scale of production and to own a studio gallery complex mirroring some of the early aspects ofEltham artist community,Montsalvat.

Since then, Mrs Maxwell has studied both a teaching degree and a qualitative methods degree, and has since combined her loves of art, science and teaching.

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