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  March 31, 2003

Access To New Media Arts Offered Through
Partnership With NY Museum

Thanks to a new partnership, current School of Fine Arts students will be at the forefront of new media - one of the most promising art trends of the future.

The School of Fine Arts recently formed a partnership with Eyebeam, an arts and technology center founded by filmmaker John S. Johnson in New York City, to offer its students access to video and new media arts opportunities.

Image: Arts students

Graduate students in fine arts discuss the opportunities now available through Eyebeam, a new media arts museum in New York City.

Photo by Dollie Harvey

"Our access to this sort of creative outlet is just not something that most institutions of higher learning can offer their students," says Judith Thorpe, department head of art and art history in the School of Fine Arts.

Under the partnership, two Eyebeam instructors are co-teaching a new media arts course for five graduate students and five undergraduates this semester. The students travel to New York every other week to meet with their instructors; tour artists' studios, galleries, and museums; and learn about new media arts - a broad term given to contemporary art using new technologies in production and/or presentation.

Examples of new media arts range from Nam June Paik's pioneering use of closed-circuit television in the 1960s to Alba, the genetically engineered bio-luminescent rabbit created by artist Eduardo Kac.

The Eyebeam instructors will come to the University of Connecticut four times - for two classroom critiques, a midterm, and a final critique.

In the first half of the semester, Liz Slagus, Eyebeam's director of education, is focusing on the history and theory of new media arts. The students are visiting several venues to view art, and meet prominent new media arts administrators, curators, and artists.

"Overall, I've found the student body to be incredibly responsive and mature in their discussions," says Slagus. "This group is well informed but definitely not overly exposed. Fortunately, they're open-minded."

In the second half of the course, Jonah Peretti, Eyebeam's director of research and development, will discuss different types of new media arts practices and will lead the students as they develop their own media arts projects using their newly learned techniques.

According to Thorpe, the partnership came about because of Saul Ostrow, an associate professor of art.

"Eyebeam has a lot of trust in Professor Ostrow and his insights," says Thorpe. "We came forward immediately with something that would benefit both Eyebeam and UConn. Thinking of media as art, and dealing with media and culture, fits in with their program. Working with Eyebeam gives us access to the sort of technology most schools can't afford."

Eyebeam is dedicated to working with educational institutions and has relationships with various universities. Eyebeam staff members have collaborated with university partners on

projects such as on-line forums, symposiums, publications, and courses both at universities and at the organization's Chelsea exhibition space.

Thorpe is hoping this semester's course will help develop a more structured program between the two entities. A UConn graduate student has already served as an intern at Eyebeam, and Thorpe hopes another student will do so in the summer.

"I think we're going to have a very fruitful relationship," Thorpe says.

Eyebeam is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting critical discourse about new media arts, and providing access, education, and support for students, artists, and the general public in the field of art and technology. According to Thorpe, Eyebeam is a leader in the new media arts field, with a position comparable to that of the Museum of Modern Art in its formative years in the 1920s.

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