Performing Arts Center to get technological help from MIT students
By Shannon Pettypiece
The Massachusetts Institute for Technology plans a course that could fine-tune the latest technology for Miami's new arts center.
Officials of the Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami hope the course will find revenue-generating technology and prevent the facility from becoming dated as technology starts playing a bigger role in entertainment.
Graduate students at MIT will take the four-month course, in which they will experiment with ways to introduce technology into the center, set to open in late 2005 or early 2006, said Performing Arts Center Trust President Michael Hardy.
"We'd be blind if we didn't see the role digital is playing. ... There is an incredible shift to digital-reproduction forms," Mr. Hardy said.
The deal has been sealed with a handshake, but both sides are waiting for paperwork to be signed in the next few weeks.
"We are very seriously talking to the Performing Arts Center of Miami to run this as a course, and we think we are likely to do this," said MIT Music and Media professor Tod Machover.
Similar courses have been taught at MIT. Students have added technology to the City of Cannes, France, and designed a concept car for General Motors Corp. that will be built in three years, he said.
"There is a real curiosity here with what will happen with the future of the Performing Arts Center and how you make a performing-arts center relevant to the largest group of people in a particular city or area," said Mr. Machover. "We are just deeply interested in what performing-arts centers can be in the future."
Mr. Hardy, whose trust will run the center once construction is finished, said he envisions "embedding technology now in this facility" as a way to keep it from falling behind technological advances in the arts.
Examples of technology students will try to incorporate at the arts center could include:
NDigital broadcasts of performances around the world on pay-per-view television.
NAllowing two ensembles in separate places to perform together via satellite television.
NComputer software for visitors to compose their own music.
NDigital TVs for public use.
NAllowing artists to display their work digitally from other countries.
NBroadcasts of concerts over the Internet.
"It would be used for a whole lot of things," Mr. Hardy said, "like to pick up our shows on your home computer."
Once the course offers technological suggestions, center officials will decide what to incorporate, Mr. Machover said.
The Performing Arts Center Trust will contribute $100,000 to MIT to use for the course. Some of the money will be used to pay for students, teachers and center staffers to travel between Massachusetts and Miami.
Center spokeswoman Jodi Paradise said it is not clear where the $100,000 would come from and no money has been set aside for the course.
Mr. Hardy, who has worked on numerous center projects, said he has never heard of an arts center using technology in this way. After meeting a representative from MIT's Digital Media Center several years ago, Mr. Hardy said, he asked the school recently how to make the center more technologically advanced.
Mr. Machover said no other arts center has attempted to use technology this way but he expects others to follow.
"Other performing-arts centers want to look through the keyhole and get in on this," Mr. Machover said. "It will be very exciting."
Mr. Hardy said the arts center must tap uncommon revenue streams to keep shows at the arts center affordable. He said technology could contribute.
"There are so many things now that we have time to think about before we have to think about those day-to-day operations," Mr. Hardy said. "We have to find non-traditional revenue streams to make it work."