The intersection of science, art and everyday life is now located on Grand River Avenue.
Quark!, an arts and science store, opened on Aug. 4, 2021, offering a variety of carefully curated products selected to spark curiosity and joy in customers.
“Quarks are subatomic particles,” owner Renee Leone said. “They’re building blocks of atoms, which make up everything. Science makes up our lives… it’s a fun, fun word!” She said, expressing how the name describes the day-to-day aspects of science.
After entering Quark!, the sight of Leone crouched over a microscope studying a cicada was no shock. Neither was her inviting customers to take a peek at the bug and a variety of acorns she had collected.
Art and science might not seem like they have much of an intersection, but Leone was able to find that intersection at her store.
“Science and art have been connected for a long time,” Leone said. “Whether it’s the chemistry that’s in the development of paint… there’s also science in our architecture, look at the Broad Art Museum. It’s beautiful, and that’s made possible due to innovations.”
Leone has studied many different fields including psychology and mental health, biology and teaching. Years ago, Leone moved to Michigan and enrolled her son in a Montessori school. Through the move, she reignited a love for science, and taught the subject at an elementary level for six years.
“I’ve always loved science, and just been curious,” Leone said. “That’s all that’s required — curiosity.”
While visiting Cambridge, UK, Leone had the opportunity to attend its esteemed science festival. This experience inspired Leone to host a science festival at Michigan State University, and she ran the festival for five years. There, attendees of the festival were excited about what they had learned, but didn’t know how to invite science into their day-to-day life. This inspired her to open Quark!
Leone said her goal is to provide items that remind people of that connection to the sciences that they love.
Rather than perceiving science as this mysterious force, or something only found in textbooks, Leone wants people to feel connected to it.
“This is accessible, it’s fun, it’s inviting.” Leone said.
Plans for the future include more children’s products but for now, her selection includes light switch plates that operate like gears, posters covered in shiny beetles, jewelry inspired by the cosmos and tote bags devoted to different fields of science. With mini notebooks to record observations about the clouds and guides to Michigan foliage, there are many functional and fascinating gifts.
Leone believes that families can use these products to explore the world together.
“When adults are interested, the children become interested,” Leone said. “Everybody’s on the same playing field because we all have questions.”
As a lover of science, Leone wants to “demystify” the subject. From the way bodies work to the way humans interact with the world, she wants people to remember that, “It doesn’t have to be a scary thing.”
“I think that science has taken a beating over the last decade,” said Leone, a self-described lover of science.
Science contains an instinct for truth, the desire and pursuit of knowledge should be unbiased; It is this principle Leone believes, should be carried over in every aspect of life. Quark! is a place where people can find products to help engage in science and get excited to learn more about the world around them.
To Leone, science is magic and one that she hopes to share with the rest of East Lansing, “Being an ambassador. It’s also a purveyor of wonder and curiosity,” She carried on excited to spread the joy of science to the community, “I hope that people have fun with the store.”
Science through Quark! is as engaging and fun as all learning should be. With curiosity nestled at the intersection of art and science.
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“If you took all the space that’s in our atoms… you would be able to fit all of humanity into the space of a sugar cube…” Leone shared in farewell, “Isn’t that cool?”
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