Art, Technology Collide

05/02/2008
By From the Lowell Sun

By Jessica K. Wilson

LOWELL -- "Art and technology go together like peanut butter and jelly!"

Thus pronounced Jerry Beck, founder and artistic director of the Revolving Museum, at last night's opening, the second installation of the museum's "Toys and Games: More than Amusement" exhibition.

The highlight of the installation was a series of interactive electronic toys created by students from Lowell High School and UMass Lowell through the Artbotics program.

"The technology can be finicky, but we have a lot of fun," said Diana Colountino, youth-arts program coordinator, as she ensured that a student's robotic heads was functioning properly.

The museum, on Shattuck Street in downtown Lowell, was a riot of color and sound as dozens of experts in art and science from UMass Lowell and the Revolving Museum come together in the Artbotics program to teach students how to marry art and technology.

Colountino and Adam Norton offer fall, spring and summer programs for Lowell High students.

"I've never taught before, but the students appreciate that I'm a kid, too," said Norton.

A graduate of the first Artbotics class in 2006, Norton is an art major at UMass Lowell.

Holly Yanco, an associate professor in computer science, and Hyun Ju Kim, an assistant professor in the Art Department team, teach a spring course at UML in Artbotics.
 
"This type of interactive work breaks the conception of traditional arts and embraces the viewer," Kim said.

The nine LHS students in the program came together to create an installation in which each student created an animated face.

Lisandra Gonzalez's piece, "Alien," wiggled his ears when you flashed a light in the center of his face.

"You spend all of this time working on it and when it's done, you're like, 'Wow!'" said Gonzalez, 17,

Sam Cruz, 16, a sophomore at Lowell High School, adjusts his artwork. a junior at LHS, as she watched visitors react to her piece.
UML students Joe Occhiuti and Ben Santoro created a souped-up version of the childhood game "Rock, Paper, Scissors," in which opponents can use mechanical hands to play the game or play against a computer.

"Even with limited time and technology, we can make hand movements," said Occhiuti, as he played his game with a young visitor. "Imagine what we could do with years more study."

Pauline Nol, 15, one of the LHS student-artists, giggled and exclaimed as she won a round of tic-tac-toe against the computer on a piece called, "Travelin' Tic Tac Toe."

Joe Sargent, a mechanical-engineering major and Lowell native, designed the piece.

"This is the first time I've ever done something like this," Sargent said. "I liked it because the class gave me some direction, then let me fun free."

"It's fun being from a computer-science background and working with artists," Yanco said with a laugh. "You really learn a new language to talk about things."

The Revolving Museum, 22 Shattuck St., is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Toys and Games: More than Amusement" will run through December.