How the Arts Enhance the Creation of Knowledge
The UNLV College of Fine Arts provides cutting-edge, world-renowned disciplinary expertise in Architecture, Art, Dance, Entertainment Engineering Design, Film, Music, and Theatre. The college supports inter- and transdisciplinary STEAM research and creative work in a dynamic location with opportunities unlike anywhere else.
This digital repository showcases examples of arts research and its effect within multiple disciplines produced at the UNLV College of Fine Arts in the 2022 - 2023 academic year.
“It is important for our peers, our community, and our stakeholders to recognize and celebrate the many ways in which the arts, and specifically arts-related research, lead to an expansion of knowledge within many fields,” said CFA Dean Nancy J. Uscher. “Arts research, integrated within disciplines such as medicine, engineering, and hospitality, illuminates aspects of knowledge creation that will enhance the human experience.”
Addressing Health Disparities Among Musicians in Southern Nevada
Kimberly James and Jay J. Shen
Although the benefits of arts & cultural activities on the general public have been identified in prior research, musicians, as well as other artists, often find themselves distanced from tangible benefits (e.g. stress reduction, increased socialization, increased coping skills, increased happiness & well-being). Artists as both producers and consumers of art have been under-researched and under-served regarding their healthcare needs and access. Therefore, we hypothesize that musical artists suffer from health issues, due to barriers to accessing needed care. This project takes a mixed method approach, with its quantitative component being survey research and its qualitative component based on the focus group approach. The Andersen Behavioral Model of health services utilization is the conceptual framework guiding the project.
ArchiTone•Ics: The Music of Architecture — Music as an Entry Point for Understanding Architectural Design
Deborah J. Oakley and Diego Vega
Architecture and Music share many fundamental concepts in common. German polymath Goethe famously described architecture as “frozen music.” Numerous renowned architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn among others, were also accomplished musicians and wrote of the connections between the two disciplines. A particularly noteworthy example of overlapping and crossing boundaries is the Greco-French composer Iannas Xenakis. Regarded as an influential figure in late 20th century avant-garde music, his first education and occupation, was actually as a structural engineer for famed architect LeCorbusier. He later practiced architecture himself before focusing on music composition, for which he is better known.
From the first scribbles and improvisations that give way to an initial idea, to the sources of inspiration, influences, and techniques that are part of the background and training of architects and composers, there are many parallels between architectural design and music composition. Listening in music is akin to seeing in architecture. Both are organized in formal structures and employ much of the same language such as composition, order, hierarchy, balance, dynamics and so on.
A third-year architecture studio has been exploring this disciplinary interrelationship as a springboard for architectural design. Nicknamed “ArchiTone•ics” it is an ongoing collaboration between professors Deborah Oakley in the School of Architecture and Diego Vega in the School of Music that has brought music more closely into the architectural design studio. Examples of work from these studies are presented in this poster.
A Stillness in the Desert? Engaging the Public through an Immersive Exploration of Southwest Soundscapes
Julian Kilker and Thomas Bjelic
The pandemic highlighted the anthropocentric nature of soundscapes, while the recent popularity of electric cars, quadcopters, and “noise cancellation” earbuds demonstrated how consumer products can rapidly change our awareness of sound. While light pollution is already extensively addressed in scholarly research, popular works such as The End of Night, and public engagement such as The International Dark Sky Association, the complex interplay of sound, natural resources, and public engagement is still emerging, particularly in creative fields.
Two UNLV scholars and artists are collaborating on this project: Julian Kilker, who specializes in visual and emerging technology research, and Tom Bjelic, who is a highly experienced sound design and field recording expert. Over the past decade, Tom has collaborated with audio field recordists around the globe to capture and produce soundscapes for narrative film and television, while Julian has documented light pollution while capturing landscapes in the Mojave at night and collaborated on multiple environmental conservation media projects.
We plan to use audio and visual field recordings to create an immersive multimedia project about soundscapes as natural resources. Our goal is to capture audio and visual assets to explore standard and extended reality media experiences. We will record soundscapes using a multi-microphone array to capture audio in a 360 degree sphere while documenting each context with wide-angle and 360 cameras and capture subsonic audio using a surface microphone. This creative and scholarly approach will be used to explore, document and engage the public on the topic of sound and light pollution.
Augmented Decision-Making Through The P[AR]k: Hybridizing Performance Metrics for User Evaluation
Phillip W. Zawarus
Nature-based solutions are being further appreciated beyond their aesthetics and are being recognized for their ability to sustain, mitigate, and service the sensible ecological preservation and enhancement of the natural and built environments (Beck, 2015). For the profession of landscape architecture to properly evaluate these necessary design tactics, our process must shift to a divergent method of asking questions to direct solutions through evidence-based decision-making (Lahaie, 2016).
Through the emergence of landscape performance and the integration of quantitative metrics into outdoor spaces, technology and innovate methods can begin to communicate nature-based benefits as tangible outcomes to comprehend the complex ecological, social, and economic relationships of our complex environments. My approach models these dynamic landscape benefits using an Augmented Reality (AR) platform of both physical demonstration pieces and digital interfaces to reach a universal audience. Augmented reality is not only gaining traction as an innovative representation tool but with the integration of parametric modeling and performance metrics it can also serve as a decision-making tool (Duenser et al., 2008) to the design process. Students, community members, and stakeholder groups can rapidly generate scenarios that align with program objectives that relate to social, economic, and environmental benefits for measurable outcomes. With the augmented interface, information and data becomes perceptual and responsive to real-time change, performance parameters, and user decision making. With the influx of real-time quantitative data that updates during this process, there is a profound opportunity to fundamentally shift design thinking and action based on these augmented outcomes. By embedding measurables and metrics to this workflow, a new design process and methodology can potentially emerge that enables the respective parties to generate robust design strategies for evaluation against their specific goals and objectives.
This approach uses a mobile AR station serving as a digital gameboard, demonstrating varies examples of landscape performance to create a “discovery exhibit” for K-12 students, college campus groups, and the surrounding community. The advanced augmented sandbox can be calibrated to communicate basic landform characteristics of elevations and slopes to advanced performance metrics of tree benefits, stormwater management, and erosion control. The gameboard scenarios can be developed, monitored, and evaluated with the digital tracking of user engagements to cross-reference with surveys to evaluate the effectiveness and friendliness of the interface and intended learning outcomes. This mixed reality provides an opportunity to evaluate whether data outputs impact or influence design decision-making by the user from the survey forms (Wang et al., 2013)..
Drawings That Tell Stories
In the spring of 2021, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I designed a project that engaged students to use Oral History as their research tool to generate their own stories from real experiences of real people impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. The project has three parts: Research & Planning, Implementation, and Presentation.
For Research & Planning part, students conducted Oral History interviews and collected stories from real people. For the Implementation part, students created full-color drawings based on the collected stories. The project was their final project for the semester and students used color pastels and 18”x24” papers as drawing materials. For the Presentation part, each student presented the summary of a collected story and a drawing inspired by the story to classmates and received comments.
We could achieve this project with the help of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries.
Entertainment Engineering: Where Art Innovates and Tech Inspires
Entertainment engineering is the realm where cutting-edge technical capabilities meet imaginative artistry to revolutionize the audience experience. Las Vegas is a monument to creative engineering and the art of the possible, displaying solutions that balance cutting-edge innovations with practical approaches to accomplish projects of every size, shape, scope, and complexity. Entertainment engineers create digital, mechanical, and structural systems for scenic elements, theatrical facilities, theme parks, pop-up events, and a wide array of performances. Advancements in the material production world are enhanced by innovations in the digital metaverse as demand grows for progress in both augmented and virtual reality.
Food Desert to Food Oasis: An Engagement with the Community through Evidence-Based Methods
Phillip W. Zawarus and Lisa Ortega
The state of Nevada has the 12th highest percentage (12.8%) of households living with food insecurity compared to the US average of 11.1% according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1). Economic and environmental benefits of urban forests have been well documented to address issues of climate change, urban heat islands, and fragmented ecologies, however, in a period of social inequities, urban forests can serve a vital role in providing environmental justice through agroforestry for communities identified within a food desert.
According to Kyle H. Clark & Kimberly A. Nicholas, “urban food forestry can be an efficient way to consistently provide free or low‐cost nutrient‐dense food to the people that need it” (2). Tree planting initiatives have been deployed to increase ecosystem services within cities and movements such as the “Incredible Edible” (3) have converted underutilized vacant lots into productive landscapes but these often occur within publicly owned land. In order to make a more significant impact with the environmental, social, and economic benefits of urban forestry, these actions need to extend into private residences. Not only will this provide direct benefits to the residents but also to the public by reducing urban heat island, filtering air pollutants, and increase the city tree canopy. Residents can be trained and provided with proper tools, education, and most importantly trees, as a community engagement approach to transform a food desert into a food oasis.
Funding from the USDA Forest Service assisted in the identification of communities in need within food deserts throughout Southern Nevada, providing education and training on proper planting techniques and harvesting, and delivered fruit and nut trees to the residents. The goals and missions of this project not only aligned with the State of Nevada’s Climate Initiative of Climate Justice through urban forestry but also fulfil the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goal (4) and satisfy six of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The objectives of this project was to provide a fresh food source for identified food desert residents in Southern Nevada. It also supported pop up tent events within targeted neighborhoods with Master Gardener assistance, and outreach driven by local groups and clubs, that include EcoMadres and Moms Clean Air Force, all of which were intimate with the areas intended for planting.
Iterating the Design Process Using AI Diffusion Models
These studies span research and creative work to interrogate the generative capacity of text-to-image diffusion models that leverage artificial intelligence to produce architectural concepts, ideas, and imagery. These systems can generate an enormous amount of imagery in a very short amount of time based entirely from the written word, and we are still just beginning to understand how these digital tools might augment and/or disrupt, both, the design process, and design pedagogy within the discipline of architecture.
These AI models occupy a quickly evolving technology space with tremendous implications for how we design, as well as how we visualize—and verbalize—our ideas. Several AI diffusion model platforms are being tried and tested to iterate various conceptual design ideas, including Dall-E, MidJourney, and Stable Diffusion. The poster graphics show how this process works (in MidJourney, in this case), starting with a text “prompt.” While designers and illustrators are very capable of generating their own graphics to design and communicate ideas, diffusion models offer two different value propositions. The first is speed. Each of these images only take 30-90 seconds to create. The second is the randomness and non-determinant factors from the machine training. The algorithm can produce many different ways to see and interpret that idea, resulting in “happy accidents” and other results that “tickle” the designer’s imagination, leading to further exploration and iteration in this early stage of design and ideation.
Oneira: New Music & Animation
Jennifer Bellor and Christine A. Banna
UNLV Composer Dr. Jennifer Bellor collaborated with Christine Banna, animator from the Rochester Institute of Animation to create ONEIRA, a sci-fi animation music video Christine Banna created to pair with Jennifer Bellor’s composition, Oneira. Written for the electronic MalletKAT, vibraphone, and two marimbas, and recorded by the percussion quartet, Clocks in Motion, this 11-minute work is inspired by virtual worlds and dreaming. This track is also featured on Bellor’s most recent album, also titled ONEIRA, which was released by Aerocade Music August 19, 2022.
Bellor first created the music, imagining that this composition will be paired with an animation, like the various animation music videos created to bring out a new interpretation when pairing music with visual elements (i.e. Disney’s Fantasia).
Here is what the animator said about creating the sci-fi world in the music video:
The concept for “Oneira” originated as a direct response to the music. I took in Jen’s composition and studied it before I started the process of conceptualizing the animation. I let my response to the music develop organically. From the start, the percussion felt like it had a crystalline sound, so I knew crystals would be an essential aspect of the narrative and visuals…From there, I started to develop a character who was thrown on a journey to mirror the flow and change in the composition itself. Science fiction felt like a genre that would give me a lot of freedom aesthetically and narratively, and with those initial seeds, I began to explore, research, and plan. – Christine Banna
As of September 2022, the music video has not only been featured on various new music blogs, including I Care if You Listen, but it has also been officially selected for three film festivals. It was selected for the Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival, the SFC Film Festival in Australia, and it is a finalist for best music film at the Munich music video festival.
Robotics in Architecture <> Robotic Architecture: Why Can’t a Building be as Smart as a Car?
The built environment is rich with opportunities for embedding and integrating digital technologies and sensors to create responsive and adaptable systems—to become smarter. This poster outlines selected moments from a thirteen-year body of work in research, design, and prototyping of responsive systems that act spatially with the environment at installation scale.
Robotics, sensing, physical computing, and digital fabrication are all topics that have been prioritized by U.S. funding programs such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Education. This poster presents the start of a framework--based around the concept of tinkering--for introducing these systems into design education. Play, experimentation, iteration, and the rest of the qualities of tinkering are certainly not new to design education. Indeed, the larger value proposition is that designers are uniquely equipped to facilitate a tinkering framework to provide novel solutions to complex problems and can provide value to multi-disciplinary teams from engineering and science. As opposed to the STEM disciplines that rely on reductive, convergent research methods, designers are trained for divergent thinking to integrate ideas and solutions at various scales to large problems that can’t be well defined or easily measured.
Sun Tunnels (1973-76) by Nancy Holt: One Earthwork's Interdisciplinary Approach
In 1973, American artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014) extended her studio practice into the land, employing light, vision, and perception through photography, film, installations, and poetics. By creating her monumental earthwork Sun Tunnels (1973-76), Holt became a leader within Land art, one of the few female artists working in a male-dominated discipline.
Sun Tunnels—located near the border of Western Utah and Eastern Nevada—is comprised of four concrete tunnels placed in an “X” pattern on the Great Salt Lake Desert’s alkaline floor. Each tunnel measures 18’ (L) x 9’ 2 1⁄2” (D); the overall work measures 9’ 2 1⁄2” x 68’ x 53’. The earthwork is a viewing device during summer and winter solstices as the sun rises in the middle of one tunnel then sinks through the middle of the adjacent tunnel. One constellation perforates each tunnel, providing additional framings of the land. In 2002, Holt explained: “the work comes out of my concerns with perception. Whether the sun is out or not, you can go there and have a sculpture experience.”1
Through her eponymous essay (1977) and film (1978), Holt presents the earthwork through interdisciplinary subjects: scientific (astronomical, mathematical, geologic, architectural) and regional (historical, cultural). Land use (Indigenous peoples, migration, military, industrial) joins poetry and philosophy to extend the work’s site-specificity. Holt wrote: “the center of the work becomes the center of the world.”2 International cultures (China, transcontinental railroad; Southeast Asia, planetariums; Ancient Sumer, Base 60 number system; Western Europe, archeoastronomy) and spiritual beliefs (Native American; Buddhism; Hinduism) form this metaphorical center.
These subjects create the basis of The Sun Tunnels Encyclo: Exploring Nancy Holt’s Earthwork through Perception and Site (The University of Utah Press, 2026) as encyclopedic entries. “See also” references expand entries, creating an ahistorical, intimate reading of this monumental earthwork. From past geologic and human time through the work’s completion, Sun Tunnels is situated in the present through contemporary issues of Indigenous reparations, climate change, extraction processes, and the search for poetics of place on an increasingly fragile planet.
Texts, Drugs, and Rock 'N' Roll: Easy Rider and the Compilation Soundtrack
Jonathan R. Lee
Of all the New Hollywood films, Easy Rider (1969) perhaps most effectively demonstrates the potential complexity of the rock compilation soundtrack. Drawing on concepts from film studies, film musicology, and literary theory, this article discusses how Easy Rider demonstrates the compilation soundtrack’s potential to generate meanings both inter- and intratextually. The intertextual method of interpreting pop compilation soundtracks looks deeply into the intersection of image, sound, and narrative on a vertical axis, considering the relationship between dialogue/image/plot point and song lyrics/musical style, the ways that the songs on these soundtracks communicate to audiences the thematic or diegetic significance of a given moment, and how these synthetic meanings apply to various characters/situations in the diegesis. Intratextual readings work horizontally to show the cyclical relationships between audiovisual set-pieces and the ways that these relationships clarify or enhance narrative themes. Attention to the intratextual function shows that despite the frequent concern that popular songs can disrupt the integrity of a filmic narrative, popular music soundtracks can in fact feature their own modes of large-scale, structural function. This film’s soundtrack allows viewers to experience Easy Rider in dual registers; narrative threads connect to other narrative threads, musical set-pieces connect to musical set-pieces, and all of the elements together comprise one audiovisual complex.
Published: Journal of Musicology 38, no. 3 (2021): 296-328. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2021.38.3.296
Tradition-Innovation [in Arts, Design, Media Higher Education]: A New Peer-reviewed Open Access Journal
Yvonne Houy and Maryrose Flanigan
How can we build a future for teaching/mentoring creative work and research that honors and enhances core disciplinary traditions? This new peer reviewed open access eJournal—collaboratively brought to life by the international Alliance for the Arts Research Universities network (a2ru), and a2ru member UNLV—provides a forum to address this question by exploring the intersection of teaching, creative work and emerging research practices.
In the challenging crucible of the pandemic, educators forged new techniques and innovative practices. Faculty in disciplines underserved by typical digital learning tools—such as in the Arts, Design and Media disciplines—explored and developed creative solutions as they shifted from in-person to remote teaching, researching, and creating. They adapted centuries-old teaching traditions to new digital technologies that were themselves changing rapidly. Post-pandemic, these faculty continue to expand “tradition-innovations” as higher education transforms in response to unprecedented and evolving challenges.
How do continually evolving digital technologies innovate the interwoven work of teaching-researching-creating, while supporting the best of traditional practices in the Arts, Design, and Media disciplines? How do emerging innovations support—or improve upon existing—teaching, research, and creative practice traditions? How can we nurture exploratory digital scholarship at the intersection of teaching and creative knowledge creation?
The inaugural Tradition-Innovations editorial board come from a multidisciplinary group in the fine and performing art and design fields. They include creative practitioners, professors, researchers, learning technologists, and arts and culture advocates and directors from a surprisingly diverse range of Arts, Design, and Media fields.
Transdisciplinarity in Experience Design: A Global Survey of Higher Ed Programs in ExD/XD
In our age of ubiquitous devices and digital media it is the perceived value of the end-to-end experience that brings people to a place. Designing inspiring and emotionally engaging end-to-end experiences requires experts in a wide range of disciplines committed to an interdisciplinary collaboration that can arrive at transdisciplinary design - the sum becomes greater than its parts.
Civil engineering, hospitality, business, psychology, digital User Experience (UX) design, and experience data analysis need to be seamless integrated with the fine and performing arts and design fields:
Architecture, interior, landscape and sound design actively engage the senses.
Graphic and fine arts infuse common and work areas, as well as digital spaces.
Choreography of engaged hospitality with the feel of authenticity plays an integral role.
Experience Design, ExD or XD, has been adopted by a variety of disciplines in higher education in English-speaking programs globally: Architectural, interior, graphic and digital design, business and hospitality management, and theatre. ExD/XD is an area adjacent to, but distinct from user experience design (UX). While UX focuses on digital media, ExD/XD focuses on the end-to-end design of an event, product, or process, which might include UX.
While there is usually at least a nod to interdisciplinary collaboration in Experience Design program descriptions, none of the programs I found offers expertise in the broad range of disciplines necessary for creating end-to-end engaging experiences. In summary, currently available higher education programs in Experience Design in English lack commitment to the transdisciplinarity needed for designing engaging end-to-end experiences.
Trauma-informed Performance Art Education
Yvonne Houy, Kymberly Mellen, Alethea Inns, and Morgan Iommi
Trauma is the emotional response to a disturbing event or series of events, and can cause symptoms such as unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, headaches, and nausea, according to the American Psychological Association (2022). Learning activities in the performing arts - such as adjusting the body through touch, or the emotional content of scenes - can retraumatize students unintentionally. In contrast, creating the conditions for emotional states that enhance learning is a science, and an art, that can support conditions for optimal performance including Flow states
Performing arts educators can proactively support students and performances by becoming trauma-informed and actively using intimacy training and consent processes. This transdisciplinary project - a 2-hour workshop for performing arts educators - brings together a Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE) and DEIJB educator, a professional dancer and trauma victim advocate, and learning designers focused on the effects of emotion on learning, trauma-informed education, and conditions for flow learning experiences.
Visualizing the Operative and Managing Complexity: Communicating the Design-fabrication Feedback Loop with the International Tile Industry
School of Architecture faculty members Joshua Vermillion and Paul Morrison led a multi-disciplinary group of students from Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Theater in a design-build elective, sponsored entirely by companies in the tile and coverings industry. The key to these sorts of collaborations between industry and academe is to see the production, fabrication, and assembly process as something that can inform design, and as a result, the design can augment production by strategic design decision-making. This feedback loop, connecting both ends of the design-production continuum, can yield interesting design research questions. One such question arose repeatedly throughout this semester of material research: How to manage the complexity of so many unique shapes and colors as tiles were sawn and processed for the custom mosaics we produced. This design research problem is uniquely suited to be studied with representational explorations as it is inherently anchored within the realm of visual communications.
While all design information for a large serpentine wall and custom mosaic composed from over 1600 uniquely cut tiles was stored in a virtual model, many different drawings were produced for various individuals, roles, and stages of the project—a small selection of which are shown here. Specific sheets of drawings were given to those performing sawing operations which choreographed each cut in order to increase efficiency and time, as well as to minimize material waste. Different drawings were created for sorting, storing, and transferring each custom-sawn tile along with assembling them into custom mosaics. These questions will continue to pop up, especially as digital technologies continue to augment the design and production processes by affording us more complexity within the building industry. However, these complexities are still largely reliant on our ability to design well thought-out instructions, drawings, and other documentation that quickly, easily, and beautifully display information.
Windsor Park: The Sinking Streets
Brett Levner and Frank Fritz
At the encouragement of Nevada State Senator Dina Neal and law professors Ngai Pindell and Frank Fritz, undergraduate and graduate UNLV film students under the tutelage of film professor Brett Levner donned their masks and returned to the field to interview documentary subjects and bring awareness to a local community in the shadows searching for hope.