You’ll need a screen to view exhibition’s progressive art


By STEPHANIE OTTEY

The McDonough Museum show includes computer games and animation.

YOUNGSTOWN — “Rust Fest” may sound like a celebration of something old, worn and oxidized but it couldn’t be more the opposite. The McDonough Museum’s latest exhibition brings something fresh and modern to the Valley’s artistic community.

The show, a collection of digital arts and new media works designed by master of fine arts students from across the country, opens June 13 and runs through July 24.

A total of 28 different artists chosen from eight universities independently created 25 pieces that share one common denominator: They are all designed to be shown on screen.

Thus, the four galleries of Youngstown State University’s McDonough Museum will be decked out with projectors, computers and monitors to allow audiences to view this progressive art form. Computer games, animation and visualization environments are just three of the variations in digital artistry that are creating a buzz in the ever-growing realm of new media and can all be ingested at Rust Fest.

The exhibition is the result of a mastermind-meeting between Leslie A. Brothers, museum mirector, and Robyn Maas, exhibition designer and production manager, at the McDonough.

The co-creators of the festival came up with the idea as a way of showcasing works by up-and-coming artists in the digital arts field.

“Our belief in the continuing role of the university art museum as catalyst for new knowledge and innovation prompted an interest in furthering our connections to universities offering new media-based MFA programs across the country,” said Brothers. “Youngstown State University does not offer a graduate program that focuses on digital art, so this is a great opportunity for our students to explore a new medium,” Maas added.

“Rust Fest is not only a great chance for local students and audiences to learn, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for the artists involved,” said Brothers. “Most of the graduate students involved have never been featured in a museum before, so this is an excellent r sum boost for them.”

One such graduate student is Amanda Long, a student at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Long will come to Youngstown to install some extra pieces for what she calls her two-channel video sculpture. The sculpture, titled “Dharma Talks,” features text from the Mahabharata about the meaning of life. Fellow Carnegie-Mellon students Daniel Luchman, Paul Anthony Rouphail and Brian Brown will also have pieces on display, as well as students from the Rhode Island School of Design, Alfred University, New York University, the Transart Institute and others.

To kick off the festival, Brothers and Maas have enlisted the talents of Potter-Belmar Labs, which uses laptop computers to improvise a collage of images and sounds in front of a live audience. They create as they go, and therefore never produce the same piece twice. The Potter-Belmar Labs performance will be at 7 p.m. Saturday in the McDonough auditorium.

With all of this innovative artwork, audiences have to wonder where the contradictory title Rust Fest fits in.

“The title of the new media festival references Youngtown’s history as a steel-producing giant,” said Brothers. “The remnants of the steel mills, with their corresponding ‘rust’ aesthetic, have influenced a number of artists, working in many different media, from the Youngstown region since the closing of the mills in 1979. The term ‘rust’ represents this unique collective artistic consciousness, specific to the Steel Valley.”

Maas and Brothers hope that more local artists are inspired by new media, so that Rust Fest can become a permanent part of that Youngstown consciousness.