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A Light in the DARC

blog_slugUCSC’s Digital Arts Research Center is off to a great start
I could almost feel the excitement in the air at the opening of UC Santa Cruz’s new Digital Arts Research Center. A huge crowd filled the parking lot, gazing up at the new $35 million building, enjoying live music from the UCSC Balinese Gamelan, and touring an outdoor exhibit—a 1950s-era camper van that had been turned into a representation of a small town in Nevada once home to nuclear testing. Read More In front of the building, nearly all of the chairs were filled (and many people stood in the back) as Chancellor George Blumenthal and Dean of the Arts Division David Yager gave their welcome remarks and thank yous. Once the chancellor and dean cut the ribbon and opened the doors, the crowd poured into the three-story building that is now home to UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) M.F.A. program, digital photography and printing studio, music research labs, drawing and photography classes, and faculty studios.

I started my tour on the third floor and was instantly drawn toward the sound of singing. Theater Arts Professor Danny Scheie was running his cast through one of the numbers from “HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” which will be presented by the department in the last two weeks of May. After watching for a bit, I continued wandering through halls full of offices and classrooms, many of which held digital audio installations. There was a graceful contrast between what seemed like “old-fashioned” art next to the modern digital art—one room would hold a digital audio presentation with a complex description of how the music playing is infinite and never repeats; the next room would hold dress forms wearing costumes designed by students.

When the plethora of sights and sounds became a bit over-stimulating, I stepped outside the hallway, where an outdoor walkway gives a stunning view of the ocean. I can imagine that view giving many a creativity-blocked student the inspiration they need.

The second floor held even more exhibits, stimulating nearly all of the senses with audio, visual, and tactile displays—and a buffet table. Also taking place on the second floor were faculty research presentations on a variety of topics. I peeked into “The Cellar,” the digital photo lab, which looked nothing like a cellar to me—it was a large, bright room decorated with impressive digital images and packed with expensive looking computers and photography equipment.

I wrapped up my tour on the first floor, watching two people pedal stationary bikes that would allow them to access pre-recorded conversations if they pedaled at the same pace. There were also more exhibits from “Things That Are Possible,” this year’s DANM M.F.A. exhibition spotlighting the research of grad students whose works use advanced technologies to create social impact. The exhibition previewed at the opening and will run April 30 through May 9. For more information about other upcoming events, visit UCSC’s arts page at arts.ucsc.edu

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