The suburban Broward County town of Coral Springs has big plans to attract artists. In January 2014 it will open a high-tech workspace for artists and creators to work with a gamut of equipment, including 3D software tools, iPads, and the latest computers.
The 1,000-square-foot facility is part of the cities' "Tech Walk," incubator that will house a series of tech and healthcare startups located in The Walk, a public plaza off University Drive.
The Digital Lab idea was spawned when Bryan Knicely, the recently appointed Coral Springs Art Museum executive director, realized the town wasn't keeping up with technology. He wanted to provide the museum with art classes that incorporated technology tools, so he toured local schools to see what digital mediums they were working with. After not finding anything revolutionary, he turned to New York City for inspiration and discovered the organization Leaders in Software and Art (LISA).
“We found them and tracked down their director and asked 'What are you doing in New York?'” Knicely says. “We learned that digital arts is more than photography, gaming programs. There's a whole new generation of digital artists, actually they call themselves 'digital geeks,' out there creating digital masterpieces.”
Those masterpieces include projects involving interactive coding and projection, 3D laser installations, sensor-driven hardware devices, and mind drawing software.
When he first introduced his vision to bring a LISA-inspired workspace to Coral Springs, his museum staff responded with a "Huh? or “What are you talking about?” confusion. Since the concept is complex, Knicely admits it's hard to explain since the digital realm is typically unknown in the museum world.
“If you look at museums, they tend to collect things. Perserving and curating and exhibiting art is what they do,” he says. “Being digital brings on a whole new layer, a complexity that's costly and something most are uncomfortable with.”
Sure, mounting canvasses and installing site-specific structures is one thing, but curating and exhibiting digital art, an intangible source, is a challenge by means of containment. “Museums tend to think of toys in a box,” he says. "And how can we display these toys."
Three prospective LISA artists hailing from New York are in talks of taking up a residency and how they can help Knicely jump-start the lab when it's up and running.
Isabel Walcott Draves, founder of LISA, says her organization aims to bring on “the next step in the march of art through history.” The initial reaction to the idea was not quite receptive, and Draves compares the reluctancy to Cubism.
“Even though Cubism made art traditionalists uncomfortable, it was revolutionary in bringing about all of abstract art,” says Draves. “It freed art from the constraints of realistic representation. So I expect that software art will bring about a similar kind of revolution, where art is no longer constrained to being something we see; it can become something magical we experience, use, live inside or feel in our bones.”
While The Digital Lab is underway, the Coral Springs Museum of Art will offer classes this fall using digital tools. Other plans once the lab opens is to host a yearly symposium to coincide with a similar one in New York, along with workshops, artist residencies, and overall creating the most cutting-edge tech art in Florida.