In preparation for the opening of the digital studio in the Sackler centre, the new Digital Programmes team undertook a research visit to the States to see how our American colleagues were using new media and digital technologies in their educational programming. The week long trip was jam-packed with visits and meetings to ten different museums in New York and Boston.
We found that most of the more interesting work is being done with young people. The majority of the museums we visited had a Youth Advisory Council of some kind to guide them in matters related to youth issues and programming. MoMa (with their Teen Advisory Council) for example, have developed an audio guide aimed specifically at teens. The guide, crucially both written and produced by teenagers, has become the most frequently downloaded audio guide on the MoMA website. The Guggenheim (in their own Sackler Centre for arts education) has a well established digital programme aimed at high school students. The quality of the work produced is incredibly high and the commitment from the students admirable. The New Media Manager opens the digital studio an extra day a week to cope with the demand from both past and current students wanting to continue working on their different projects. It is a model I'd like to see us adopt at the V&A in the future.
While the train journey to Boston was long and tiring it was worth it to visit the ICA, which has an extremely exciting young people's programme. Their digital studio was designed to be used solely by teens and it is incredibly impressive, as are the programmes that come out of it. They run workshops in video, web design, digital photography, animation and pod-casting throughout the year, but the most innovative programme is called Fast Forward. It a year-long after-school film programme, where students work with professional film-makers and media artists to concieve, produce and edit their own work in various genres. Past students have gone on to submit and show their work at various film festivals. Amazingly, the programme is free of charge, although there is a rigourous application and interview process.
Since artist residencies are such as key aspect of the Sackler Centre, it was with great interest that we visited Eyebeam, an art and technology centre which focuses on digital research and experimentation. Central to the ethos of Eyebeam is the atelier system and they have up to 10 artists in residence every year. They work in an open-plan studio environment, behind glass walls, and open studio days encourage the public to interact directly with the artists. We visited on one such open studio day and it was a real pleasure to see the artists in their working environment and to talk to them about their process. It is exciting to think something similar will be happening at the V&A once the Sackler Centre opens.