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Faculty find ways to blend art and technology

Arts and technology merge to form new landscapes at Virginia Tech. The community can see, hear, feel, and participate in this merger, spurred by collaborative scholarship at Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

While the new Moss Arts Center provides flexible spaces to create and display, faculty and students from music, education, cinema, communication, visual arts, and engineering combine their skills to extend the horizons of technical art forms. Among them are faculty and students from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

   

Joan Grossman, at far right, introduces her four-screen installation alongside project colleagues Carol Burch-Brown, Eric Lyon, and Charles Nichols at the four-story Cube in the Moss Arts Center. Joan Grossman, at far right, introduces her four-screen installation alongside project colleagues Carol Burch-Brown, Eric Lyon, and Charles Nichols at the four-story Cube in the Moss Arts Center.

A ‘kinetic conversation’

Joan Grossman, a visiting professor in the School of Performing Artscinema program, created a video installation for the inaugural exhibition in the arts center's Cube, where images, sound, and conversations about the creative process surround viewers. Sensors control the lighting, and people watch technology and art become entwined.

That’s one of the goals of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, the research institute partnered with the arts center.

Entitled “This edge I have to jump,” the piece is “a kinetic conversation, an immersive meditation, and an investigation into the compulsion to make, invent, and perform what otherwise would be intangible,” Grossman said.

Grossman used a camera that shoots four times the resolution of high definition video. Eric Lyon and Charles Nichols, composers and computer music researchers in the School of Performing Arts, created specialized sound elements for eight speakers. Carol Burch-Brown, professor in the School of Visual Arts, helped with the final software.

Laptop orchestra outreach

Once a novelty on the university front, laptop orchestras are now in elementary schools across the country thanks to Virginia Tech’s continued development of open source software and eagerness to engage the community. Ivaca Ico Bukvic, founder of the Linux Laptop Orchestra or L2ork, shares his music technology to empower K-12 satellite “orks.”

While L2ork students have performed around the world since 2009, they also make time to teach youth. Universities that have adopted Bukvic’s approach to cultivate K-12 laptop groups include Shawnee State, Santa Clara University, and Stetson University.

Avatars and opera

Ariana Wyatt, assistant professor of voice, wants avatars to sing opera. Wyatt’s idea came to life when Bukvic suggested that the online building game Minecraft could be the tool to make it happen.

Wyatt and music colleague Tracy Cowden helped a group of high school boys select operatic excerpts from Mozart operas while Katie Dredger and Kelly Parkes from the Department of Teaching and Learning helped the students develop a story and libretto.

Bukvic teamed with Cody Cahoon of Moseley, Va., a sophomore computer science major, to retrofit Minecraft characters with increased facial movement and expression.

"Operacraft" will be performed in the Cube in December 2013 with high school students controlling their avatars and projecting their Minecraft set onto a translucent material called a scrim while Virginia Tech vocal students sing the score.

Wyatt wants to make opera more accessible to everyone, and she said in-depth exposure to the arts is a life-enhancing experience for everyone.

A hip-hop library

Joycelyn Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies, has established an on-campus archive of hip-hop music and artifacts called the Four Four Beat Project. The library contains more than 4,000 vinyl albums and other collectibles spanning four decades.

   

Joycelyn Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies sifts through records with donor Michael Webster. Joycelyn Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies sifts through records with donor Michael Webster.

While a teacher in Los Angeles, Wilson found that her students' problem-solving abilities in math improved when they were challenged to write raps about algebraic concepts. Students also were more confident and eager to help each other when hip-hop was used as a learning pathway, she said

School of Education arts and technology projects includes professor and department chair Katherine Cennamo’s work with studio-based instruction and professor Sue Magliaro’s work with the VT-STEM K-12 Outreach Initiative. Jimmy Ivory, associate professor of communication and director of the G.A.M.E.R. lab, focuses on the social and psychological dimensions of new media, particularly video games, virtual environments, and simulations.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Jean Elliott at 540-231-5915.

Multimedia: Arts and education

  • Video: Experience Joan Grossman's "This edge I have to jump."
  • Video and photos: As head of the INTERACT studio within the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, Professor Ann Kilkelly of the School of Performing Arts uses music to communicate stories and build community, such as this "Impromptu Glorious Chorus."
  • Photos: The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech celebrates the Moss Arts Center's opening week.

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