IAIA Digital Dome

IAIA Digital Dome

Kiera Lasiloo is from the Zuni and Cochiti Pueblos. Currently she attends the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she majors in New Media Arts - Moving Images.

Date Posted: 
2010-11-01 10:11

Blog Series:

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), located at 83 AvanNu Po, Santa Fe, is going a step farther to introduce new technology to their students and the surrounding community. In a press release from IAIA it was announced that the Institute, along with the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the Santa Fe Complex, has been awarded $597,220 in funding from theNational Science Foundation’s Partnership for Innovation program. IAIA, UNM and the Santa Fe Complex will use the award to develop the hardware and software that will make it possible to use fulldomes as interactive, multisurface environments that help people visualize, simulate, or experientially comprehend a wide range of information, from educational and artistic material to evaluating scientific data and complex systems.

The new Digital Dome, which is currently under construction at the moment, is proving to be a huge undertaking by the college. J. Carlos Peinado is the chair of the New Media Arts Department at IAIA. “What a dome is essentially is a planetarium,” Peinado said. “But if you've never been to a planetarium, then I always say, take a ping-pong ball, cut it in half, and the inside of one of those halves is all projection space, so 180°, its a perfect hemisphere.”

In the fall of 2007 Peinado and a number of other colleagues attended an educators conference in Albuquerque where he met David Beining, the founding director of UNM's ARTS Lab. That day Peinado was introduced and blown away by David, and his use of the technology and immersive properties of the “fulldome experience.”“Colloquially we call it fulldome, it's taking a planetarium dome and washing it in digital video by using many projectors.” David said. “Each of those is connected to a computer or a graphics card at least. The pictures combine to cover 180 degrees over your head and 360 degrees around you.” The UNM ARTS Lab is unlike any other viewing facility. Although this brown building, with it's wooden steps, doesn't look like much from the outside. The interior is filled with wondrous, innovating technologies.

“He put on the most amazing show. I've never experienced anything like that, and I've been to planetariums so I'm familiar with being in a planetarium and looking at stars and stuff like that,” Peinado said. “But to see moving image material going on, coupled with surround sound, it was wild.” David Beining has been spent years on working with this medium. He could now be easily identified as the “go-to man” when needing information about a “fulldome experience.”

But it wasn't until Peinado was shown work done by students from, UNM, that he became overwhelmed with excitement and wonder. “I think the thing that really struck me the most was, David demonstrated some material that some native students had done at UNM with the dome.” Peinado said. “That's where I had my ah-hamoment, I was like wow.” David explained the project that was so inspiring to Peinado. The project was entitled, “Indigenous Skies & Celestial Beings” by Colleen Gorman an enrolled member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation. “She really celebrated her perspective and her philosophy of the importance of symmetries and how we can find things in symmetry. ” David said. “It was the first time I had ever seen a contemporary Diné voice so large, so big.” After that amazing presentation, Peinado was off and running.

As chair of the New Media Arts department, he pushed this project to the top of his list. Soon both, Dr. Robert Martin the President of IAIA, and Ann Filemyr the Dean were on board. Peinado was able to share his vision so vividly that anyone would be excited when learning of all the possibilities this medium could offer IAIA's students. “If you really think about it the idea of the circle, the idea of the hemisphere.” Peinado said. “It's iconography that is so deeply embedded I think, in our stories, our mythology, our cultural heritage and our way of thinking.” According to the current work schedule the Digital Dome should be ready for it's grand opening some time in late August or early September.

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