First AMT Fest in San Diego kicks off art and science collaborations

The weekend of Feb. 2-4, an ambitious undertaking took place, the brainchild of three local organizations: one art-centered, one scientific and one academic. The first Art/Music/Technology (AMT) Festival was a creative collaboration between San Diego Art Institute (SDAI), the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park and Southwestern College in Chula Vista, and included a mix of high-tech demos, panels and performances by experimental artists, musicians, scientists and students.

The festival opened Thursday evening with electronic music and video under the Fleet’s state-of-the-art IMAX dome and went on to a Friday full of presentations and hands-on workshops combining art and technology at SDAI. On the last day, at Southwestern, the focus was on trends in visual and sonic media, including work created by twelfth-grade students at High Tech High School in Point Loma, under the leadership of their teacher, sonic/kinetic artist Margaret Noble. In and around all this, there was plenty of time for networking at breakfasts, lunches and after-parties.

In an interview before the festival, SDAI executive director Ginger Shulick Porcella said she and Southwestern College art professor Perry Vasquez wanted to stage an event to raise awareness of the world-class work in art, music and technology being done in the San Diego area.

“We felt there should be more collaborations between art and science, and a strong representation of women, since most high-tech events are overwhelmingly male-dominated,” Porcella said. “So we had community discussions with artists, scientists, musicians and programmers from both sides of the border, asking what they thought we should highlight.”

Fleet Science Center CEO Steven Snyder was someone Porcella wanted to collaborate with, ever since he started the popular “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar” programs in 2014, offering opportunities for everyday folk to interact with scientists in casual, pub settings.

The result of this three-way collaboration was a three-day event that was part conference and part showcase of tech-driven music and art. Many of the presenters were MFAs and Ph.D.s from UC San Diego, some now living and working far away.

“It went incredibly well for a first-year program,” Porcella said, after the festival. “We had about 75 attendees, and the presenters and audiences all were happy. Everyone, myself included, really loved the hands-on workshops, so we’ll have more of them next year. We’re welcoming people of all ages and backgrounds, we’re keeping prices low, and I’m confident that, as the program grows, we'll get more attendees.”

Next year, they said they are planning to partner with San Diego Opera and the University of San Diego.

“We felt there should be more collaborations between art and science, and a strong representation of women, since most high-tech events are overwhelmingly male-dominated,” Porcella said. “So we had community discussions with artists, scientists, musicians and programmers from both sides of the border, asking what they thought we should highlight.”

Fleet Science Center CEO Steven Snyder was someone Porcella wanted to collaborate with, ever since he started the popular “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar” programs in 2014, offering opportunities for everyday folk to interact with scientists in casual, pub settings.

The result of this three-way collaboration was a three-day event that was part conference and part showcase of tech-driven music and art. Many of the presenters were MFAs and Ph.D.s from UC San Diego, some now living and working far away.

“It went incredibly well for a first-year program,” Porcella said, after the festival. “We had about 75 attendees, and the presenters and audiences all were happy. Everyone, myself included, really loved the hands-on workshops, so we’ll have more of them next year. We’re welcoming people of all ages and backgrounds, we’re keeping prices low, and I’m confident that, as the program grows, we'll get more attendees.”

Next year, they said they are planning to partner with San Diego Opera and the University of San Diego.

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