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A New Institute Emerges at Cornish

A New Institute Emerges at Cornish

: iET+I logo with Babette McGeady and Coulliette of The Pendleton House, the institute's resident artists, at iET+I's offices at Cornish. Photo by Mark Bocek.

A New Institute Emerges at Cornish

: Coulliette and Babette McGeady of The Pendleton House, the institute's resident artists, at iET+I's offices at Cornish. Photo by Mark Bocek.

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Introducing “a little bit of anarchy into the established system,” the Institute of Emergent Technology + Intermedia starts up at Cornish; The Pendleton House will be in residence.

The greatest schools, arguably, start out as schools of thought. Certainly Cornish College of the Arts began that way, as the answer to a perceived need in education. Nellie Cornish wanted a school that would not just teach technique in the arts, as traditional education in the arts had done, but would dig deeply into the mysteries of creativity. She wanted to shape not just artists, but great artists. To accomplish this, her innovation was to teach all the arts together, to allow cross-pollination among them, for the practice of each discipline to drive the others forward. From the beginning, the teaching of technique — which by its very nature must be highly organized — has existed in tension with the desire for creative, free expression without boundaries; the two principals have formed the yin and yang of Cornish. The new Institute of Emergent Technology + Intermedia (iET+I) at Cornish seeks to support that elusive balance.

The new institute, like its matrix, Cornish, begins its life as an idea that responds to a need and as a set of principles. As such, it is still finding its form, in fact it is intended as a search for a form. As put forward by its two champions on the faculty, Robert Campbell and Jarrad Powell, iET+I doesn’t start out with hardened master plan, instead, it will be free to find itself. It will be “an entity of research, support, education and community interface at Cornish College” intended to harness the tremendous energies of students, faculty and alumni hungry to work across disciplines and break new artistic ground. Powell, while emphasizing the creativity needed for everyday instruction, sees the institute as “introducing a little bit of anarchy into the established system.”

For President Nancy Uscher, the Institute of Emergent Technology + Intermedia is a welcome harbinger of change at Cornish. “I believe the formation of iET+I is an important step forward in Cornish’s evolution,” says Dr. Uscher. “The work of the Institute – research and innovation by leading faculty members collaborating with students – will be an engine for ideas that will drive art-making across the visual and performing arts and beyond what we can now imagine.”

iET+I has two upcoming events. On December 8, from 5:30-11:30 p.m. is PlāHaüs, an event being organized by students with support from the institute. It takes place at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. On Monday, February 3rd, 2014, the institute will present Miwa Matreyek: Myth and Infrastructure, performance and artist talk. Artist talk from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. Beebe Building at the Cornish main campus, 2014 9th Avenue.

The origins of iET+I actually go back some 20 years. In 1993, professors Campbell in art and Powell in music were confronting the problems and promise of high tech, which was revolutionizing their work. The tools of film and video, Campbell’s specialty, were growing beyond physical manipulation of media and becoming software-driven. Music, likewise, was experiencing a flood of powerful software-driven changes in both composing and recording. Software was simplifying the work and putting powerful tools in the hands of artists. Campbell and Powell, among a number of other educators such as David Tosti-Lane, present chair of performance production, felt that the rigidity of the programs at Cornish as well as an acute lack of space and funding were preventing a serious response to changes like these. After a number of meetings, a document was drafted called the “High Tech Initiative” to suggest a concerted way forward.

Bob Campbell recalls that there was in “1993 a desire for a strategic approach to technology in positive terms of a vision to create a school significantly more united and brought together by shared use of technology in shared spaces, employing what was then “high technology” — meaning very expensive — in an integrated and interdisciplinary way.” But at that time, Cornish was pressed for resources. The initiative did not move forward.

Over the past two years, with increased financial stability at Cornish, a new president in office and a new provost in the offing, Campbell and Powell felt that the time was right to revisit some of the core ideas of the initiative. Early in 2013, Bob Campbell formed the “institute committee,” an informal group of interested faculty and chairs, that met to help clarify the mission and scope of the institute, and offer a plurality of perspectives. Along with Campbell and Powell were design’s Jeff Brice, Ephraim Russell and Christy Johnson from the art department, and the theater department’s Charles Schaeffer. The ideas emanating from the committee were warmly received by President Nancy J. Uscher and Provost Moira Scott Payne, who gave the official go-ahead to start up the institute.

When a performance of one of Jarrad Powell’s compositions had to be cancelled, a space and time at Seattle’s Good Shepherd Center became available. He and Campbell offered the performance opportunity to a group of students and alumni including the collective The Pendleton House, who promptly put together an evening of dance, music and art on October 12. Importantly, Powell and Campbell saw that The Pendleton House shared common goals and practices. They asked the House to be in residency at the institute.

The executive directors of The Pendleton House, Babette McGeady and Coulliette, jumped at the opportunity. “The Pendleton House combines its desire to facilitate progressive and contemporary methods of collaboration with the support of iET+I ‘s residency,” says McGeady, “which will develop a structure that can generate sincere artistic growth, push boundaries, and promote the blending of art mediums.”


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