Art that Rocks! In which I meet Hebru Brantley, Chicago visual artist, and Jim Holstein, Field Museum geologist


Most Saturday mornings, I’m checking my instagram feed, getting a head start studying for that math test (maybe), or if I had a long week (which I usually do), sleeping. But once a month, I jump out of bed bright and early, and head to The Field Museum to plan *curioCITY events with other Youth Council members. And earlier this month, the curioCITY event we had been planning for months was finally coming to fruition. We were excited to bring together Chicago visual artist, Hebru Brantley and Jim Holstein, The Field Museum’s collection manager for physical geology in conversation about their unique career paths.
*“curioCITY brings a Field Museum scientist together with a cultural professional for a conversation about the pathway that lead them to their current career.”


The morning was all hustle and bustle for sure– each Youth Council member working to make sure that everything was ready. Jim Holstein (Field Museum geologist) actually came early to eat lunch with us, which was fantastic. What do you know? On top of being a superstar scientist, he mountain bikes competitively and, might I add, wins.


As it neared our 1 o’clock start time, high school students from all over started trickling in. And I had the pleasure of talking to everyone in the audience. As expected, many of the students I met with were interested in art and science. But the interests went beyond that– fishing, stand-up comedy, horror make-up effects, and a circus sport I’d never heard of– wheeling! It was so exciting to talk to such a diverse group, and to see them all participate in our cookie decorating, drawing, and icebreaker activities!

When Brantley and Holstein came to the stage, everyone was settled in and ready to listen. And, to say, the least, it was a very informative and entertaining talk. Berat and Jack, our emcees, kicked it off with an excellent question about how their childhood interests impacted their careers now. Instantly, Brantley and Holstein were able to connect over both their childhood hobbies of collecting– Brantley with comic books, and Holstein with rocks. By the nods of some of the audience members, I could tell this was something many of us could relate to.


The easy banter and connections between Brantley and Holstein continued with the conversation, as they talked about inspiration, failure, goals for the future. Oftentimes, when one answered the question, the other comment that their answer was virtually the same.

At one point, Brantley simply answered, “take out minerals, put art, and you’ve got it,” after Holstein spoke to finding the fact that every mineral he studies is a piece that “adds to the human story.”


When I talked to audience members after the event, I could tell that that message came through. One teen I talked to in particular said he had originally come because he was interested in art, but something about learning about geology struck a chord.

For me, this was exactly the response we had hoped to receive. These curioCITY events are meant to show the connections and show the path. During the talk, Brantley spoke briefly about always knowing he was an artist, but never seeing a professional like him to aspire to.

“There wasn’t a ‘me’ [to look up to],” he said.

I hope that through this talk we were able open some teens’ eyes to possibility of new career paths and showcase a great artist and a great scientist that we can look up to.jim_hebru_youth

The final takeaway from the event I think is best summed up in Holstein’s words when reflecting on how he too learned from Brantley through this event:

I think I’ve learned that you can do vastly different things with your career, but in the end people are pretty much the same. It comes down to a common human experience. – Jim Holstein

When I spoke to Brantley, I got a similar response; he learned from these parallels as well.

I think it’s awesome that not only our audience, but our speakers were able to take something from the event!


Thank you to everyone who came out to curioCITY– from students, to speakers, to youth council members, to Field Museum staff. I had a blast.


Youth Council Member
What was your favorite part of the event? Comment below!


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