If you visited the Center for the Arts right before the holiday break, you may have noticed a curious, interactive exhibit on display in the lobby. The Narrative Machine—which will be on display through mid-February—is the result of a special collaboration between the Mason Community Arts Academy (MCAA, previously Potomac Arts Academy), the Patriot Green Fund, the School of Art, and the School of Engineering.
In 2008, MCAA launched a green initiative and outreach program called “Instruments in the Attic.” The Academy took in old and unused musical instruments donated by generous community members with the purpose of bringing them back to working order for students of all ages. Since its creation, Instruments in the Attic has brought in more than 850 instruments, returning many back to the community for further use. However, not all instruments are able to be repaired. So, MCAA had to find another green solution for these irreparable instruments.
MCAA devised a way to recycle the instruments in a more artistic and meaningful manner through a collaboration with the Patriot Green Fund (part of Mason’s Office of Sustainability) and the School of Art. The idea was simple: to convert them into sculpture art projects that told a story, powered by a STEAM approach. School of Art Associate Professor Edgar Endress had an even more innovative idea though. He invited Dr. Daniel Lofaro from the Volgenau School of Engineering to assist him in constructing an orchestra of automated sound sculptures using new (and old) media technology balanced with influences of 20th century Russian Constructivist art, amongst other styles. Special funding from the Patriot Green Fund facilitated this undertaking.
The prototypes of this data-fueled, artistic adventure are what you currently see in the Center’s lobby. Visitors are welcome to stop by during Ticket Office hours (Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and on performance dates to experience and “try out” the various pieces of this unique exhibit.
Special thanks to Zachary Wilcox at MCAA for his help in developing this article.