The Media Arts Project (MAP) evolved as David McConville and Kurt Mann, working in consort with other regional media artists, spearheaded an effort to establish a public access channel in Buncombe County. As media arts professionals, they recognized the potential for the combination of the innovative artist community growing in WNC and the creative outlet of a public access channel. Throughout 2001, McConville lobbied for public access, and by January 2002 he submitted a petition to the Buncombe County Commissoners.
In June of 2002, Fred Johnson, consultant with the Media Working Group in Kentucky, was engaged to write a report for the support of the public access channel. Johnson, active in media policy on the national level, was familiar with developing proposals on best practices in media arts centers. With Johnson’s expertise, the proposal was presented in January 2003 to the Asheville Chamber of Commerce Information Technology Council with the support of Jim Roberts of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, western North Carolina's regional economic development commission.
In the Fall of 2003, a local philanthropist recognized the passion and the progress this grassroots organization was pursuing in harnessing the momentum around cultivating the innovative arts and technology He offered a donation to MAP for a six month operating budget. In 2004, MAP was officially incorporated as a 501(c)3, and Greg Lucas was hired as Executive Director. McConville assumed the Chair position of the Board of Directors. Founding board members were: David McConville, Kurt Mann, Sharon Willen, Lorraine Walsh, Robert Zimmerman, Chuck Clonninger and Steve Cohen
QUARKS to QUASARS
The first official event of the MAP was the Quarks to Quasars symposium on visualization at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) in April 2004. Researchers, educators and artists came together to present the state of the art in scientific and artistic visualization technologies that are used to understand the growing quantities of scientific data. Presentations were made by representatives from NASA, Oak Ridge, the American Museum of Natural History and local organizations. The symposium assisted local efforts to better understand regional resources and potential partnerships through a series of facilitated meetings between scientists, artists, academics and entrepreneurs.
The success of this event led a broad organization of business, artists, researchers and academics to join the MAP in organizing the Applied Vis 2005 conference. A yearly conference is now anchored at UNC-Asheville, promoting and developing the visualization industry in western North Carolina.
Off the MAP
In August of 2004 with funding provided by Buncombe County, Rose McLarney was hired as Executive Director of MAP. Kurt Mann assumed the role of Chair of the Board, and he provided MAP office space in his Ironwood studios in downtown Asheville.
During 2004 the Off the MAP events were finding a receptive audience. The first Off the Map event screening held in May 2004 drew an audience of about thirty people. By November, a few months later at least 150 were in attendance. The regular events continued to draw audiences and centered around the theme of electronic and media arts, from screenings and performances to lectures and symposia. Held at various local venues the series was proving to be effective in stimulating the region’s media arts culture and expanding the public’s interest in cutting edge media. MAP collaborated with a number of institutions and organizations to host these events including: Western NC Film Commission, The Asheville Area Arts Council, University of North Carolina Asheville, AB Tech, Western Carolina University and AdvantageWest.
48-Hour Film Project
Finally, in January 2005, after MAP assistance in securing the necessary funding and contractual structure to adequately develop a high-quality cable television station, Buncombe County approved public access URTV. Kurt Mann resigned his position as Chair of MAP and was hired in April to manage URTV operations. Mann sought to position URTV as a regional media center while also attempting to integrate MAP into the physical studio of URTV. He was unable to fulfill either of these goals and he resigned his position with the station in the Fall of 2006.
In July, MAP board member Katie Kasben worked with the 48-Hour Film Project to bring it to Asheville. Established in 2001 by Mark Rupert and Liz Langston in D.C, the festival/competition encourages filmmakers to get out there and make films. Each filmmaker is responsible for gathering the necessary cast, crew and equipment needed to produce a complete short film in just 48 hours. Asheville continues to collaborate yearly with the Project and is now one of the cities where more than 150 competitions have thus far taken place around the world.
By the summer of 2005 McLarney resigned as MAP Executive Director, and Alison Watson was hired.
"ALICE" Party with Terpsichore
THE MAP DIRECTORY Launched
By October 2005 the MAP had made progress in organizing and harnessing the momentum around Western North Carolina media arts. Through social/creative/business networking and education activities, the MAP had contacted almost 350 businesses about registration in the newly created Media Arts Directory. The Directory provides a listing of media artists, companies and media-related resources in WNC. This enables local businesses and nonprofits to tap into and partner with the region’s growing multimedia industry. It also serves to encourage firms to relocate to this area as well as makes it easier for purchasers of multimedia services to place orders with local firms. Both FastFWD, winner of the Wired Magazine’s Best Business Web Site award, and Vidvox software development company relocated to Asheville, citing MAP as a contributing factor.
GRANT PROGRAM for Media Artists
In November of 2005, the MAP in partnership with Advantage West initiated a film and media arts grant program for regional media artists.
The Fund is administered by Advantage West fosters and promotes innovative media arts and film in Western North Carolina. The grant offers the financial support artists and entrepreneurs need to complete projects that enhance the region’s digital arts and culture.
The Media Arts Advantage Fund (MAAF) was dedicated to the late kayaker and filmmaker Daniel Delaverne, who was named an “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic Magazine. He was one of the world’s most successful extreme sport videographers and best known for his joint role in founding Lunch Video Magazine. His Asheville-based production company, Penstock Productions, produced numerous classic outdoor adventure features. Delaverne brough technology to outdoor sports by enthusiastically developing content for pod-castig, bloggin, video streaming and quarterly DVD magazines. This mix of art and technology is what attracted him to MAP. Delaverne was an ardent supporter of the MAP and Platinum level sponsor at the MAP’s November 2005 fundraiser.
The MAAF was kicked off with a Hi-Tech Hoedown benefit hosted by the Asheville Affiliates and the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The event raised $17,000 including a matching grant of $10,000 from Advantage West.
In the Spring of 2006 the MAAF had its first grant cycle.
WATER in WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
February 2007 saw MAP awarded the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI)/National Environmental Modeling Analysis Center (NEMAC) Project. The MAP was awarded $90,000 to produce two short animated videos. RENCI, a multi-institutional organization, brings together multidisciplinary experts and advanced technological capabilities to address pressing research issues and to find solutions to complex problems that affect the quality of life in North Carolina, the nation and the world. Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.
RENCI at UNC-Asheville opened in 2007 and their initial project was development of 3-D visualization tools for disaster planning, response, and mitigation in WNC to be put to use by city and county planners, emergency responders, educators, meteorologists and others.
“Water in Western North Carolina: Impervious Surfaces”, an animated visualization about consequences in the mountains when rain falls on impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt during a storm, was a collaboration between RENCI, the Media Arts Project, the Elumenati and Klein Digital.
The visualization was developed primarily for city and rural planners to use in their decision making, but is also valuable to students and the general public. A second video, "The Power Connection" was completed in 2008 and addresses the connection between power usage and water consumption. There are plans for additional Water in Western North Carolina movies to be produced.
Climate Alive & CECI
The Asheville Hub launched the Centers for Environmental and Climatic Interaction (CECI) led by George Briggs, who also directs the North Carolina Arboretum. CECI is a non-profit partnership among government, academia and industry that provides innovative education strategies, natural resource impact analysis, visualization technologies and other tools for making crucial decisions
In November of 2007 CECI, with the assistance of MAP, showed off Asheville’s climate assets before representatives of organizations that receive climate data and services from NOAA’s agencies. The CECI event at the Grove Park Inn was highlighted by the premiere of “Climate Alive”—a short, powerful film that demonstrates global climate challenges and how expertise and collaboration within Asheville can help policymakers comprehend complex problems and devise effective solutions. www.climatealive.org