Steam... Heating Up Arts Education

STEAM, a movement to integrate arts education (back) into the curriculum, because the Arts keep many students happily engaged in the learning process and because, if employed effectively, the Arts actually increase students’ performance in core subjects like math and science!


STEAM is where right brain learning meets left brain learning and the whole child gets educated.


The growth of professions that bridge the Arts and Science is another reason the STEAM movement has picked up, well.. you know.

Take the intriguing field of Forensic Art.

Victoria Lywood,  Canada’s leading forensic  artist, has participated on a slew of fascinating projects over the past 15 years, from classic law enforcement tasks (composite sketches, age progression, cold cases) to stunning historical recreations of mummies and Medieval ‘vampires’  using  3D computer imaging technology and non-hardening plasticine.

In 2010 Lywood put a very pretty face  on ‘Justine,’  a 3000 year old mummy at the Royal Ontario Museum, who recently has  been identified as the Thebian chantress (or singer/dancer) Nefer-Mut. Historians authenticated the hair and make-up.

Photo of bust of Nefer-Mut Copyright Victoria Lywood.  

Photo of bust of Nefer-Mut Copyright Victoria Lywood. 


Facial reconstruction as performed by forensic arts is over 100 years, but the field is ever-changing with new technologies from 3D printers to laser scanners to MRI’s, etc.

Lywood’s stunning biblical-age facial reconstructions from skulls from the Levant have been showcased for television on Lost Faces of the Bible and aired on the National Geographic Channel.

Lywood’s  most celebrated discovery may be with respect to the mysterious tale of Tom Thompson, Canada’s own Van Gogh,  who died ‘accidentally’ at age 39 while canoeing  in his beloved Algonquin Park, Ontario.

In 2010, Lywood, working blind on a skull of debated origin, re- created Thompson’s well-known face, fanning the flames of controversy over how he died. 

“Evening at Canoe Lake”     Art Gallery of Ontario, Public Domain. The Thompson Collection.

“Evening at Canoe Lake”   Art Gallery of Ontario, Public Domain. The Thompson Collection.

The field of forensic art is so new, many people in law enforcement and academia sometimes are not sure of its authoritativeness, benefits, or where it fits into their day-to-day operations . This seriously hinders the cause of finding missing persons, says Lywood. Hence, this Montrealer’s multi-faceted freelance career.

 Is the forensic artist an artist or a scientist?

I asked Lywood, who is passionate about precision and detail.  Lywood’s reply:

“There are both scientists and artists who study forensic art. It is in its own niche and doesn't fit into a standard art or science program.”

When asked"When you work, do seek out beauty, like a traditional sculptor?" She replied, “I don't have the urge as I'm only connecting the dots. I'm always excited to see what has developed from the puzzle. Most beautiful faces have fine symmetry. In my job I crave the asymmetry in the bone structure knowing that it may be the one odd identifying feature that could lead to a name.”

Now that students can actually get a degree in forensic art,  who knows what great things the future has in store for young wannabe forensic artists, or graphic designers, sculptor-engineers and other dual-sided brain workers. (It’ll help things along if job positions actually open up.)

Meanwhile, Victoria Lywood, forensic art pioneer, who has also worked as a consultant on the TV show BONES, will continue to expand her repertoire taking on manyother important and eye-popping work projects.



Contributing from Montreal, Quebec CN


Read Dig Magazine, archeology for kids, September 2014 for more on Lywood’s mummy restorations.

Victoria Lywood  is planning a series of workshop for the general public. Find out more information by visiting