Stefanie Atkinson Schwartz “Playground of Life”
By Tami Larson
April 22, 2021 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day which provided a voice for the emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet 51 years ago. Now in 2021, when our world’s youth see they can directly affect small and large scale change, they are likely to carry this strong sense of responsibility, purpose and stewardship inspired from the original Earth Day into a global framework of their fellow youth.
With our November issue theme centered around gratitude and embracing change, Mill Valley resident, Stefanie Atkinson Schwartz, due to her lifelong work and dedication to helping others discover new ways to see and interact with the world around us, was the perfect choice for our Resident Spotlight this month.
Stefanie, originally from New York, has spent the past 20 years gaining the tools necessary to finally share her unique perspective on new ways to see and interrelate with our surroundings.
Her journey began at age 2 when she walked up to a tv set, turned it all the way up so she could hear it, but as she got closer could see and feel the waves of light. This phenomenon, often referred to as a condition called Synesthesia, has recently been favorably labeled as “an express route to creative genius” shared by artists such as Lorde, Pharrell Williams, Billie Eilish, and Franz Liszt.
Throughout her life, Stefanie also started noticing that what was visible to her was invisible to others, until she showed them her vision through her camera lens and then they could see it as well. For example, when she looks at spiderwebs she sees undulating fields of light whereby you can see the beads and dynamics of webbing and how spiders make their loops. Similarly, she can see bees build their entire environment making shapes of stunning architecture when not “boxed-in” or contained.
Stefanie has worked as a multimedia artist, professional photographer, videographer, art director and motion graphic designer for television and on documentaries. Her work has been exhibited in solo and juried group shows, museums, and galleries. She has a BFA in photography from Syracuse University, an Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in television design and several broadcast design awards.
In 2014 Stefanie listened to a book on Neuroplasticity which examined brains of people with synesthesia, such as hers, and learned that the brain, if fed new information, continues to grow throughout life and that our senses aren’t limited. “This proved to me that all of us have the potential within us to continue to evolve if we can remove the ‘box thinking’ and return to our nature,” she said.
During Covid, Stefanie learned and became part of a new artist incubator called the Design Science Studio which launched an (r)Evolutionary incubator for ART, in collaboration with the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Habritual. Their goal was to bring back the design science decade that Fuller launched in the 60’s with the mission of shifting from weaponry to “livingry” and inspiring a regenerative future that works for 100% life. Her contributing, ongoing project and exhibition called “Wonder” is to reinform us that we are all part of nature. By sharing and demonstrating via photographs, video, virtual reality, painting, scanning etc., dimensionality and harmonics of life, (what she’s always been able to see with her naked eye) Stefanie is now using the project and experience to build a “Playground of Life” hub with her team and design Science cohort, Struppi Pohl.
She explained, “By fusing our unique qualities, life experiences and desire to remind the world that “creativity is our birthright” and we are nature, our vision is to immerse people in experiences that encourage wonder, play, and exploration which will organically reshape the way we think as more people begin to discover their neural diversity and connection to nature. Spherical thinking or box thinking? Which one expands and elevates us?”
Mill Valley Living will be closely following Stefanie and the Design Science Studio’s ongoing projects. For more information visit https://linktr.ee/stefanieschwartzartist for info, links, offerings, opportunities, and ways to engage.