Genome exhibit winds down

September 21, 2018

Call it a summer fling. The union of art and science occupying the Rochester Art Center is coming to an end.

“The Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” exhibit closes at the end of the day Friday.

The traveling exhibit opened in June — 65 years after the discovery of the DNA double-helix was first reported and 15 years after the human genome was mapped.

The exhibit offers multiple interactive features and displays. Displays like the trait tree and portraits of people with genetic disorders show the diversity that genetics can express in people. However, what we have in common struck Brian Austin, executive Director of the Rochester Art Center.

“One of the big takeaways is how much we share a common code,” Austin said. “Many of the things we ascribe as differences between people are not structurally encoded.”

The exhibit was created as a collaboration between the National Human Genome Research Institute, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the National Institutes of Health.

Austin said the exhibit drew new and first-time patrons to the art center. Nearly 9,000 patrons viewed and interacted with the exhibit, Austin said.

The Mayo Clinic worked with the Art Center to bring the exhibit to Rochester with the help of Kelli Fee-Schroeder, an education coordinator for Mayo’s Center for Individualized Medicine.

Sheila Dickinson said the exhibit showcased what can be done with the gallery space at the center. It also showed how science and art can be paired.

The main galleries walked people through an interactive and educational display about genetics while other galleries showed genetic expressions as art.

“The other exhibits are providing the heart,” Dickinson said. “They have a range rather than a single note.”

If you haven’t been to the exhibit, here’s what not to miss:

Trait Kiosk

There are four physical traits that every human does or does not have—dimples, a widow’s peak, attached earlobes, and a tongue that can(not) curl. If you put those together, you get 16 potential combinations of traits. Find out where you fall.

Trait Tree

See how community members show their genetic traits. CIM took pictures of people locally who fit into each of the 16 trait groups. The result is a “trait tree” mural that fills a 16-by-20 foot space with more than 400 photos.

First Person Plural

Can an amalgamated collage of projected photos replicate your face? See how close video footage, photos and tools commonly used in genomic medicine and research matches you. Rochester artist Eric Anderson created the project.


The other digital interactive piece by Anderson, a soundscape, Myriphon uses chimes and other noises when visitors answer questions about their genetic traits. It has 23 instrumental disks to represent the 23 genetic markers in humans.

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