College of Fine Arts produces podcasts

Appealing to hordes of iPod-toting students, the College of Fine Arts has created a podcast program. Called Lab A6, the program produces podcasts showing the ways that art impacts life. Eric Sloss, director of media relations for the College of Fine Arts, has served as producer of the podcasts since they first began airing in March 2007.

“I came up with the idea because I like the way the radio medium has the ability to capture good, thoughtful conversation,” Sloss said.

The process began with an idea to use the format of the radio medium to discuss art and how it impacts life. After Sloss arranged the program with the recording engineering department in the School of Music, he began creating podcasts of interviews with faculty members. The podcasts are supported by Margaret Myers, associate director for the Studio of Creative Inquiry.

“[The podcasts have] progressed to having larger conversations about how art impacts life in a broader sense,” Sloss said. They explore a realm larger than Carnegie Mellon, and topics introduced in the podcasts are relevant to the entire arts community.

Recording engineer and music professor Riccardo Schulz records the podcasts, which usually occur on Friday afternoons. In addition to recording the podcasts, Schulz was responsible for teaching associate producer and BHA junior Matthew Campbell to edit the recordings.

“Once the recordings are made, we transfer them to the School of Music server, and Matt Campbell does some minor editing and uploads them to a website so they are available to the general public,” Schulz said.

While many of the topics may seem to relate only to the Carnegie Mellon community, such as the interview with Consul director Gregory Lehane, the subjects addressed within the interview extend beyond the university.

Campbell described the podcasts as “timeless,” things that would be relevant even after the events inspiring them had ended. The podcasts provide a unique perspective on art, often originating from the artists themselves.

“Normally, when you go to a gallery, you don’t get to talk to the artist,” Campbell said. “Lab A6 gives you the opportunity to discuss the works with the artist. When we write the questions, we take on the role of the audience.”

Although the podcasts contain information from art experts, including Carnegie Mellon professors, they are not meant for a specialized audience. The podcasts are designed to be available and understandable to everyone, instead of just artists and musicians. They give a behind-the-scenes look at some of the things happening within the arts, both on campus and off, including stage performances and art exhibits.

“It’s more about the ideas behind the exhibits than the works in the exhibit,” Campbell said.

Not only are the interviews Carnegie Mellon related, but the music also has ties to the university. The Starling Quartet, a Carnegie Mellon performance group, performed the music used for the opening and closing theme of the podcasts, and most other music included in the podcasts as well.

The podcasts often discuss the significant effect of the arts on the community. According to Campbell, arts companies are huge employers, affecting the economy of the cities in which they are based. In addition, the quality of life improves for the people in the cities with arts programs available. Residents of the cities are able to attend operas and other performances, bringing more culture to the cities.

The podcasts produced by Lab A6 are made available to the public both on the Lab A6 website (www.cmu.edu/cfa/labA6.html) and on iTunes U.

The next planned podcast will feature David Wettergreen of the Robotics Institute with discussion on the impact of the arts on science. The podcast is scheduled to be recorded this Friday.