Category Archives: Art and Literature

UMass Lowell professors give thumbs up to proposed digital media expansion

By George DeLuca
December 10, 2016 (updated December 16)

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Dr. Robert Forrant conducts a historical tour in Lowell, MA

The future of UMass Lowell’s Digital Media Program may be the best kept secret at the university. The “interdisciplinary minor in Digital Media is designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore the theory and practice of media as it is being produced on the ground today.” Last February, Julie Nash, the vice provost of Student Success, said the Digital Media Program could add a major by the Fall of 2017.

Not all professors at the university know about the plans to expand the digital media program. But those who do are excited about the proposed major because it will further enhance their ability to prepare students for “the real world” far beyond the offerings of the minor. “The mind boggles at the potential of the program,” said history professor Dr. Robert Forrant.

Currently, the digital media minor has about sixty students enrolled. Forrant lights up at the thought of an increase in enrollment in the program, especially if it means attracting students who have already achieved a degree of competency in filmmaking and digital media.

“If I’m teaching a course on the history of urban renewal in Lowell, I may want to go to the person running the digital media program and say, ‘I’d like to have your program help me make a twenty-minute documentary. Can you help?’ That would be right up my alley,” Forrant said. A stronger program will significantly increase the odds for achieving Forrant’s vision.

Filmmaking has a language of its own. English professor Thomas Hersey believes that digital media literacy is crucial to student development, but the principles of conveying a well written story into an audio/visual asset must be learned in steps. To help accommodate this need, he is planning a film society for honors students who want to learn about the language of film and film theory.

Hersey also believes that a collaborative spirit will grow among professors as signs of the transition to a major fully manifest and additional resources become available.

“Oftentimes when people can see what can be done by way of extension from one community to another, they’re excited about it. It’s mutually beneficial. But it’s hard to see the benefits before the transition starts in earnest,” Hersey said.

The expansion of the digital media program may also raise the stature of the university in the eyes of the community, while encouraging joint projects.

Forrant envisions an advanced filmmaking curriculum at UMass Lowell that will nourish an initiative he is developing to “try to get the city, the university and Lowell National Historical Park to engage in the creation of a tenement house museum somewhere in downtown Lowell, like the one on the Lower East Side in New York City,” he said.

Forrant believes the project may foster a spirit of creativity and comradeship among students and faculty. “I can imagine some students in the digital media program going out and filming on location in the city to create footage that can be embedded in this digital tenement house that we’re building,” he said.

Forrant and other professors believe the digital media major will reinforce UMass Lowell’s resolve to turn out students who are ready to use various media platforms to formulate, develop, and distribute ideas.

“I understand how digital media can become part of coursework. It’s another skill that students need to have by the time they graduate. They need to be digital media literate in the ways they communicate. Digital media skills are part of a various range of jobs today,” said Dr. Chad Montrie, who has produced documentary films himself. “I think there’s a lot of student interest in film and filmmaking at UMass Lowell,” he said.

Hersey believes the digital media major will strengthen the broad-based foundation for filmmaking and multimedia production at UMass Lowell and enrich all curricula in the process.

“I see possibilities galore where there can be overlap from department to department, and with students from the humanities to the sciences. With all the resources that are out there, the possibilities for collaboration are endless,” Hersey said.

Hersey suggests the formation of a steering committee that crosses disciplines to develop a long-term focus for the digital media program. “Not only are we looking for cohesion among the various players at the university, but we can also create a force multiplier,” he said.

Part 1: Renovations planned for UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Library

Part 2: Partners pave way for digital media major

Partners pave way for digital media major at UMass Lowell

By George DeLuca
November 29, 2016

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O’Leary Library at UMass Lowell South Campus

The digital media major at UMass Lowell may no longer be on track for a Fall 2017 unveiling, as some associated with the program hoped it would be. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that partnerships are forming to address additional requirements in a growing effort to make the major a reality.

With intra-university paperwork still routing through the appropriate channels, attention has turned to the studio facility standards that must also be met for the major to gain credibility. O’Leary Library Director George Hart and digital media program director Dr. Wael Kamal have been busy negotiating an agreement to pool their respective resources, while joining forces in pursuit of a path to compliance for the major.

The library is “in the midst of a transition, and part of the transition involves partnering with other units on campus,” Hart said. To date, a final announcement has not been made on the digital media major. But Hart is forging ahead with the planning process, including studying the feasibility of reprogramming the digital services center at the O’Leary Library.

“We’re looking at the idea of consulting space where experts, not just librarians, from our staff around campus will consult with faculty, and they will plan curriculum, technology pilots, and different things. And then we’re talking about a studio where they can execute,” Hart said.

Some of the facility-oriented elements needed for advancing the viability of the digital media major are already in place. “Right now we have the ‘sandbox,’ which is a studio for certain kinds of high-end classroom recording sessions that are broadcast and put on the internet,” Hart said.

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O’Leary Room 140

Besides the “sandbox,” three other facility components are on-tap to beef-up the digital media program: O’Leary Room 140 in the Learning Commons area, the planned renovation of the digital services center, and, the availability of additional resources offered by Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) in downtown Lowell.

Room 140 is already set up as a lab and a classroom. It has Mac workstations with the full Adobe suite installed, large wall monitors for screenings, and an elaborate sound system. “We can do workshops there, and our digital media program is beginning to utilize it,” Hart said.

Hart is also planning a complete renovation of the digital services center. “We’re in the process of repurposing the former media center into a more broadly defined digital services studio,” he said. Hart and his staff are visiting other colleges to look at their digital studios. “We’re reviewing the best, most efficient, effective, and appropriate equipment and services that we can place in our new concept,” he said.

According to Hart, the digital media program is welcome to use his vision for a digital services studio for grant writing purposes. “Dr. Wael Kamal, is applying for a grant to try to move the program forward. The grant requires a studio like the one we’re planning on building. He has consultants coming in to help him advance the program,” he said.

Julie Nash, the vice provost of Student Success, has been involved in the initiative since her role as associate dean in the Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Services college. Although she’s no longer on the front lines, she has stayed involved and is supportive of the digital media program’s development. “We are finalizing the proposal and looking to invite external reviewers to campus pending final approval,” she said.

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Digital Services Center at the O’Leary Library

Hart said that the consultants will identify the design standards and programmatic requirements for the digital media major. It’s hoped that the planned digital media studio space will “be the place that receives the consulting folks to feed us the criteria for recording, editing, graphics and all the digital services tools that have to be applied,” he said.

Hart hopes to have the space transformed into a studio by next summer. His vision calls for the digital services space to be gutted and renovated. If Hart’s project proposal is approved, the wall adjacent to the mezzanine will also be opened to facilitate access to the mezzanine study space.

Meanwhile, Kamal said he is “working with academic and community partners including the O’Leary Library & Lowell Telecommunication Corporation (LTC) to advance the digital media major proposal through shared resources. As an example, students in the major will have the opportunity to access LTC’s high definition three-camera, professional TV studio for class projects.”

Kamal also said that he’s pleased with the spirit of collaboration that exists on campus. “There is a partnership, a strong collaboration happening within the digital media program (now a minor) and the digital services department located at the O’Leary Library,” he said.

According to Kamal, the digital services center will share resources, equipment, and archives and, in return, the digital media program can contribute student staffing as available when the need exists. The digital media program can also provide student videographers and assistance with video productions when needed. The arrangement is designed to “serve both sides,” said Kamal. And of course, the expanded partnership with LTC will add another element towards meeting the digital media major requirements.

“In November 2016, the studio at LTC will get three new Sony HD (hi-definition) cameras, a full size teleprompter, a new ‘TriCaster’ switcher with digital graphics and virtual set capability, a wireless intercom system, and a full size audio board with a live telephone interface,” Kamal said. “This partnership with LTC will allow for high quality live and recorded productions with opportunities for our students to be directly involved with Lowell’s public access TV station.”

If the digital media major is officially approved, UMass Lowell will be able to add film school to its complement of disciplines across the university. Nash is encouraged by recent progress. “I am happy to say that the collaboration between the digital media academic program and media services in the library will only provide better access to resources and expertise for our students, and we are more excited than ever about future steps for the program,” she said.

Part 1: Renovations planned for UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Library

Part 3: UMass Lowell professors give thumbs up to proposed digital media expansion

Brush Gallery & Artist Studios temp move due to Gov’t Shutdown

This is per Artist Pamela Wamala:

Due to the fact that the Brush Gallery & Artists’ Studios is on National Park property, if the government shutdown continues into Open Studio Weekend, the artists can be found on the 3rd Floor at Gates Block Studios, 307 Market St., Lowell, MA 01852, 978-225-0307

FB Page for Gates Block Studios

ComeToLowell.com enters its 5th year!

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Happy 4th Anniversary!

ComeToLowell.com was born September 28, 2009, based on an idea that crystallized at a downtown marketing conference early that summer. Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch was looking for ideas to freshen up the theme There’s a lot to like about Lowell. At the time, the slogan was considered tired. It was being ridiculed by people in other Cities and Towns, and even here in Lowell. So Bernie asked a crowd of over 200 people if they could come up with a fresh idea.

I have considerable experience in marketing, so I asked myself, “What’s the goal exactly?” “What do we want people to do?” “What’s the desired effect?” And after listening to the City Manager elaborate, the phrase Come To Lowell came to mind.

I raised my hand, Bernie said “You there!”, and I presented my thoughts. “Just tell people what you want them to do. Say Come To Lowell, and build a marketing strategy around that statement.” I continued to think about it afterwards, and decided to go forward with the idea, the first step being to reserve the domain name ComeToLowell.com.

Fast forward 4 years and this month, September, 2013, the site has achieved another record for unique users and total times accessed. This past Wednesday, the site achieved a new record for times accessed in a day. The website is simple, easy to navigate and has a loyal following. The reason I keep it going is because people use it. And every day, I hear someone use the phrase “Come To Lowell” in a sentence, I hear it on the radio or read it in the newspaper. The brand has taken hold.

From the very beginning, the roll out was intended to be a 5 year process. That process ends at the end of next September. The mission is on target. The main goal from day one was to delineate the City of Lowell, similar in idea to a concept that Jack Kerouac formulated. He always wanted to delineate Lowell, but maybe events in his life got in the way of achieving that. I don’t admire Kerouac as a writer so much. To me he was just another guy from Lowell … a brother in a way. But he loved Lowell. That’s important.

ComeToLowell.com isn’t a portal site like other sites in the City, it’s a tool for economic development; one that’s involved radio appearances on 980WCAP and WUML 91.5, the production of TV shows on LTC and video clips on YouTube, and writing newspaper columns and this Blog. The effort has involved establishing and maintaining connections with many leaders in the City whom I admire and respect.

So, what is the vision for the City of Lowell? Who are we as a City? What is our defining strategy going forward? We’re barreling towards the answers to those questions, as we struggle to find consensus. The City is approaching a fork in the road in the coming year. The path we decide to take will clearly define the future of the City.

If we choose the right path, Lowell will be on its way to becoming a world class city. If we’re not up to that, at least we know that Lowell will always be a fine City.

Sustainability Week Video

This is a collaboration between Jessica Wilson and I at LTC.

“A snapshot of the many activities going on during Lowell’s Sustainability Week including the Greater Lowell Community Foundation Bike-a-Thon, RiverFest, and the Mill City Grows Harvest Festival, set to the fabulous musical styling of Lowell National Historical Park Ranger Marieke Slovin. Honestly, we can’t think of a more fun way to showcase everything that is great about our City! Special thanks to George DeLuca for the great footage.” LTC

post by George DeLuca

Celebrate “Beat” with Kerouac friend/collaborator David Amram

Everyone goes home in October. Jack Kerouac

This is the weekend of Jack Kerouac in Lowell. This year, MRT, UML, LNHP and the City participate heavily. Events are stacked and occur in various parts of the City, especially downtown, the Acre, Pawtucketville, Centralville … This is “Jack’s Beat”. Download a brochure at http://www.cometolowell.com, cast aside your cares and woes and hang with “beat” enthusiasts.

I attended “Beat Generation” at MRT on opening night “… the only play Jack ever wrote.” Unfortunately, a nagging cough forced me to have to leave after the first act. But if you crave to be a fly on the wall during a congregation of beats (including Jack), this is the event to see.

I also attended the annual kickoff celebration at Cappy’s Copper Kettle last night and had a chance to catch up with my friend (and Kerouac collaborator) David Amram. Later as he played piano behind one of the readers, I blocked out the reader about half way through and just listened to what David was playing. It was incredible … soft, etherial, spiritual riffs up and down the keyboard … church.

Is Kerouac a viable vehicle for economic development in Lowell? Probably not … but as long as David Amram keeps coming … there will be peace, love and “beat” … and … Jack’s spirit will be around to hang with you and tickle your senses.

by George DeLuca