Spiders — the eight-legged creatures who inspire fear and disgust in the hearts of many — are actually wildly important to the ecosystems they call home.

An art exhibition, opening Saturday at the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center, aims to teach audiences about this incredible fact, while also highlighting how the largest order of arachnids has served as inspiration for everything from folklore to industry.

“We really want people to start thinking differently about spiders,” said Dorothy Tuthill, associate director and education coordinator for UW’s Biodiversity Institute, which is sponsoring the event.

The exhibition will feature diverse media such as glass, photography, music, textile art, animation, ledger drawings, confocal micrographs, historic scientific illustrations and chocolate.

“Spiders are, I think, a misunderstood organism or group of organisms,” said Juliet Slutzker, the Biodiversity Institute’s project coordinator. “A lot of people are scared of spiders or think they’re icky and try to kill them when they see them. But this exhibit shows a different side of spiders. It shows how important they are for biodiversity and the ecosystem that they live in.”

The event begins with an hour of short talks from 3-4 p.m. by scientists and artists, focusing on what spiders do for an ecosystem and what influence the eight-legged critters had on art, religion and technology throughout human history.

These talks will be followed by a reception from 4-6 p.m., during which guests will be invited to explore the exhibition. The event is free and includes refreshments.

“We hope that if people are on campus for the football game anyway on Saturday that they’ll stop by for some free refreshments and some spiders before the game,” Slutzker said.

Go to www.wyobiodiversity.org for more information.

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