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Art & Activism in new Digital Media Research Studio

January 11, 2013 in ArtDigital ArtResearchService LearningStudent SpotlightStudent Work
How can an art student learn to make cutting edge presentations, become proficient on high tech equipment and give back to the community at the same time? Take ART 4020, Assistant Professor Derick Ostrenko’s, Art & Activism class, where as of fall 2012, students have had the benefit of working in a $150,000 Media Research Studio as they assist a community partner with a pro bono project. Funded with the support LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology (CCT), the studio (where all upper level digital arts classes are now taught) was built last summer with finishing touches added last fall. The price tag covered construction as well as hardware and software, some of which is housed in several smaller satellite rooms throughout the art building and includes a video suite and a production suite. Highlights of the studio and its suites include a motion capture stage with six infrared cameras that map 3D graphics onto live actors; seven high-end graphics workstations for digital media applications (like visual effects, video editing as well as real world applications such as, creature animation, videogame creature creation, and making human-like movement for animation games); a screening area with surround sound, plus projection where students are able to screen shorts in class for review and critique; color correction surfaces, 3D mice, Cintiq pen displays, and a variety other interfaces meant to close the gap between artist and computer. The studio also has a 10Gbit pipeline to a new high-performance computing cluster, funded by a $1,000,000 National Science Foundation grant. This will allow scene iterations created by faculty and students to be viewed and tested at pace that was previously impossible. Professor Ostrenko says, “The studio itself is setup as a hybrid classroom/working environment. I spend half my time there teaching and half assisting students working on projects. The setup is conference style and collaborative, as it will be at times in their careers.” One of last semester’s community projects (hence, the activism part) was a partnership with Special Olympics, a collaboration set up with the assistance of the Center for Community Engagement, Leadership and Learning (CCELL: Interacting with the Hammond, Louisiana-based client was valuable to all of the students, and their first meeting was a teleconference during which they learned about the mission of Special Olympics and got down the basics. Once the project was underway, Ostrenko invited Special Olympics’ marketing director and volunteer coordinator to LSU to see the projects in progress in the studio to discuss next steps. Then, the class split into groups and attended Special Olympics’ “Fall Classic” just outside Lafayette, where students filmed several events and put them together in “a fun, attractive, youthful way that they could use on social media,” according to Professor Ostrenko. For extra credit, students created interactive art stations for a festival Special Olympics does called “Olympic Town. One student, Senior Steven Pedeaux, of Hammond, created an interactive horseshoe toss with classmate Tom Lapann, where one tosses the horseshoe and a computerized sound is generated to let the player know if it’s on target or not. The duo used MAX6 to create the software. “It was a more fun version of horseshoes and more engaging for someone who may be easily distracted when playing.” Pedeaux says, “Technically, a blind person could play horseshoes by listening to the responsive noises. We hope the software can be used in Olympic Town at Special Olympics’ Louisiana State Event in March.” Another student created an interactive photo booth that’s a projection screen, a camera and a computer. Professor Ostrenko says, “You can walk or dance around in front of the camera and it creates a colorful, abstract piece of art from your image.” Mary Hannah Prevot, a senior from Baton Rouge, said there was plenty of trial and error involved in working on the Special Olympics project, but it was rewarding work that taught students how to use their digital arts training to serve their community. Prevot, who also works at CCELL, acted as liaison between CCELL and the class, helping to communicate what Special Olympics needed from them. Prevot, who graduates in May, says she would love to work for a nonprofit when she graduates. “A future goal of mine is to help people find a voice in their community.” Junior Katherine Chelsea Norris, who has a degree from the Manship School of Mass Communication, says working with Special Olympics was a great exercise in media, art, social interaction and technique. “It involved our class working as a team through delegating specific tasks that we each excelled at,” she says. Norris, who has never worked for a nonprofit before, designs marketing and professional photography for Ann Connelly Fine Art and freelances for other clients including The Manship Theatre, and LSU Press in addition to studying in the digital arts program. “After this ‘art and activism’ project,” she says, “my perspective has been widely opened on how to assist nonprofits and other public works organizations. As for how students feel about the new studio, Steven Pedeaux, who also works in videography at Student Union Marketing, thinks it’s great. “The machines there are powerful and can be linked to create render farms for those jobs that require that extra strength,” he says. “Alongside those powerful machines are Arduino microcontrollers, Wii remotes, Microsoft Kinects, resource books and more.” He adds that the studio provides him with a place to work with others and it’s also especially helpful to have a place to work that’s always available on campus. “Before the new digital arts studio,” he says, “It was often difficult to find an unused computer to work on his projects between classes. I’m very thankful to have the lab and access to all the resources in it.” ### CONTACT: RENEE SMITH (225) 772-6296 /