Bates receives $500,000 grant to fund major arts and technology project | News

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, the college’s new Immersive Media Studio—the focal point of a major new arts and technology project funded by a $500,000 grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation—will occupy a prime location right in the center of campus.

And the studio’s location isn’t a mistake; equipped with state-of-the-art sound, visual and multimedia technology, the studio is designed to be a magnet that attracts everyone from scientists to playwrights to collaborate.

Does a professor in the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences have an idea for a short course where a rig could make sea level rise and glacier melt come alive for observers? The plan is for them to be able to find both the training and the tools to do so in IMStudio. So will the theater major who dreams of a Broadway career and wants to make the leap into all-virtual production design.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the arts at Bates, and the possibilities are endless. Teachers are already doing ground-breaking creative work and this grant will enable them to do much more.”

Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Malcolm Hill.

Coming to the first floor of the Coram Library, IMStudio will serve as a technology-driven companion to the virtual reality and 3D hub of VizLab down the hall.

IMStudio will provide an on-campus space for faculty to create immersive sound compositional performances and installations, as well as multimedia installations that weave together animation, sound, video projection, fictional performance, drawing, and visual media, as well as complex lighting, sound, and projection design .

Jb Whiteley ’25 (center) of Tampa, Fla., uses a thumb piano to record an audio recording during the class “Soundscapes: Recording and Designing Sound,” taught by Assistant Professor of Music Asha Tamirissa (left, in front of the computer) , who works with sound, computer media, video and film in performance and installation. Tamirissa is a member of the Bates Arts Collaborative team that developed IMPACT 21st, a multifaceted approach to supporting technology practices and arts education. (Phyllis Graeber Jensen/Bates College)

Students and faculty will create installations and performances within its walls. The Bates Arts Collaborative (BAC), which developed the grant proposal, envisions faculty and students—and visiting artists in residence—booking the room for several weeks so they can leave equipment and materials in place and learn the process and methods of immersive media.

BAC has a multifaceted approach to supporting students and faculty involved in technology-based arts and education. Called IMPACT 21st (Innovation, Media, Process, Arts, Collaboration and Technology for the 21st Century), the project seeks to deliver technological improvements including green technologies; brought artists to campus to share their experiences; provides training to faculty on how to use new technology equipment and to develop new courses; and supporting students who wish to develop their own technological art projects.

Supported by a $500,000 grant over four years, IMPACT 21st’s long-term goal is to raise the profile of college arts education, attract new faculty and students, create new ways of practicing and learning, and realize the interdisciplinary potential of the arts and other programs and departments on campus; and train future leaders in film, audio, music and media production, as well as the visual arts.

Olin Arts Center Carolina Gonzalez Valencia Experimental Animation Class
Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Culture Carolina Gonzalez Valencia is a member of the Bates Arts Collaborative, which has developed Impact 21st, a multifaceted approach to advancing technology practices and arts education. Seen in February 2020 working at the animation booth during her Animation II: Experimental Methods course, part of the department’s animation track. (Phyllis Graeber Jensen/Bates College)

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the arts at Bates, and the possibilities are endless,” said Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Malcolm Hill. “Teachers are already doing ground-breaking creative work and this grant will enable them to do much more.” The Bates Arts Collaborative put a lot of thought into this project, and what’s great about one of the key needs they highlighted, the concept of an immersive media studio, is a bonus for all of our faculty.”

Refurbishment of the Coram space is planned for the summer, but work needs to be done in the meantime, including getting the word out to interested parties.

“One of the biggest things is also getting the community excited,” says assistant professor of art and visual culture Carolina Gonzalez Valencia, who serves on the BAC subcommittee that will manage grantmaking activities, using the coming months to plans the implementation of the proposal.

The goal of IMPACT 21st is to support technology-based arts and education at Bates. Seen in 2018, a student dancer wears a sensor during a faculty-student collaboration in music, dance, and digital and computer studies convened by Shoni Currier, director of the Bates Dance Festival. (Phyllis Graeber Jensen/Bates College)

“Part of it is showing them the possibilities of what this space can bring to the community. We know it might be a bit abstract for some units and people who aren’t necessarily into art.

For subcommittee member Tim Duggan, assistant professor of theater, the promise of IMPACT 21st is to create more connections between the arts and the campus as a whole. “In the arts, it’s really easy to kind of stay in our own little area,” he says. “So now, it encourages all kinds of ideas and possibilities.”

They are already buzzing about him. “It’s funny,” he says. “Acting and directing, I can do that in just a few blocks, you know? But the thought of IMStudio makes me want to do more films, play on green screens, more partnerships with dance. It’s already shaking me.’

For an independent study in directing at @bates.theater.dance, Alison Green '20 of West Hartford, Connecticut, directs Florence Keith-Roach's dark two-character comedy about, as the playwright says, “female friendship, fertility and freaking out.
The promise of Bates’ new arts initiative, Impact 21st, “is already encouraging all kinds of ideas and possibilities,” says Assistant Professor of Theater Tim Duggan (right), seen in October 2018 comparing notes with Allison Green ’20 after a dress rehearsal for eggs, which Green directed. (Phyllis Graeber Jensen/Bates College)

Tim Duggan and Carolina Gonzalez Valencia are joined on the BAC subcommittee by Michael Reidy, senior lecturer in theater and managing director of theater and dance, Asha Tamirissa, assistant professor of music, Jamie Watkins, manager of the Digital Media Studio, and Rachel Ray, senior director on corporate and foundation relations.

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