Joseph Megel calls the new Media Art Space @ 108 E. Franklin “the beginning of a new era in media production and live performance.”
“It’s a facelift, a moving forward, a re-imagining of media production and performance studies and its relationship to new technologies,” said Megel, artist-in-residence and director of the Process Series.
A ribbon-cutting on April 29 marked the grand opening of the space, “a place where our faculty, staff and students can continue their excellent creative work as renovations in our former spaces in Swain and Bingham Halls are completed,” said Patricia Parker, chair of the department of communication in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Students interested in performance studies as well as media and technology studies and production will benefit from the space beginning in fall 2021. Those who specialize in media production can choose either a cinema production path or a new media track. In the new media track, students develop critical and creative approaches through a cross-disciplinary curriculum, choosing courses in communication, computer science, and information and library science.
A lounge area with colorful chairs and couches and a bright yellow sign invites visitors into the space — an incubation area where students can brainstorm ideas.
A hallway lined with posters advertising previous student and faculty films and performances leads the way to media labs (including one outfitted with computers for game design), a studio with green screen and voice-over booth, a sound-proofed audio room, instructional spaces, a small performance space/classroom and a room for students to check out media equipment. LED lighting throughout the building will help conserve energy.
Provost Bob Blouin called the new space, situated near the Ackland Art Museum, music buildings and Carolina Performing Arts’ CURRENT ArtSpace +Studio (a bit farther down Franklin Street), “‘beachfront property’ at the gateway to campus.”
“When Walgreens, the former occupant, vacated this space … I thought we could transform [it] into something magical,” Blouin said.
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz shared that he recently met with several prospective students and their families, and he told them that the beauty of Carolina is that students are encouraged to explore new ideas right away.
“Places like the new Media Art Space will allow that to take place, bringing together the natural sciences with the social sciences, and fine arts and humanities,” Guskiewicz said. “I also keep thinking about the mission statement of the College of Arts & Sciences, which is ‘Think. Communicate. Collaborate. Create. … for meaningful lives.’ This new space is going to allow for just that.”
Lab Director Mark Robinson, who led visitors on the tour, said he is excited about the possibility for new partnerships and intersections among disciplines, thanks to the new space.
“We’ve been so physically separated, stretched across campus, that it’s nice to be able to potentially do more in terms of collaboration,” Robinson said. “With everything in close proximity, it’s easier to get things done.”
Megel said the new space feels very much like “downtown theater in New York,” and that he is hoping to make further connections with the community, inviting small groups for public performances, with safety standards in place. The combination of blending live performance with digital media is also becoming popular, he said.
“The community will get to see some of the work our students are doing,” Megel said. “And as students progress in their studies, it’s important for them to learn to collaborate because they’ll do that in the outside world. Teaching that is part of our responsibility.”