Arts and Culture

Carson Center Aims to Shape Future of Media Arts

Megan Elliott

Utah has Sundance. Nevada has Burning Man. The French Riviera has Cannes. Nebraska’s Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts aims to make the state the next hot destination for media artists. The new program will welcome its first students in fall 2019.

“The challenge is to create something completely unique for the 21st century. That’s a rare opportunity so everyone’s keen to participate,” said founding director Megan Elliott, who arrived in 2017 from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia.

The prospect of shaping the future of media arts is attracting the industry’s world leaders to Nebraska. Twelve experts participated in the Carson Conversations Forum in May. Speakers included Robert Tercek, author of Vaporized; Roy Taylor, corporate vice president of AMD Radeon Technologies Group; and Charles Wang, deputy director of China’s Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment.

Speaking to a sold-out crowd of 170 university and community members, they emphasized the importance of meeting the challenges of a society in rapid transformation. Students must learn to not only use cutting-edge storytelling technologies – such as artificial intelligence, game engine and virtual production – but also to help shape the future of storytelling.

Theater student Adam Turner tests virtual reality equipment.

“About 60 percent of the jobs that our graduates will be doing haven’t been invented yet,” Elliott said. “So we want to help students develop resilient and adaptive mindsets and skill sets so they can flourish in a time of constant change.”

The Carson Center interdisciplinary program will include storytelling, creative coding, virtual production and entrepreneurship. The facility will offer design labs, studios and virtual reality technologies. It is establishing strong industry collaborations to ensure graduates have the necessary skills and internship opportunities and to attract leading experts to instruct and mentor students.

The program aims to offer coursework that fosters collaboration among students from many disciplines and to become a community resource in digital communication.

The center is a $57 million university investment made possible by a $20 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation, named in honor of the late entertainment icon and Nebraska alumnus.

+ Additional content for Carson Center Aims to Shape Future of Media Arts