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July 7, 2003
New online gallery offers innovative time-arts experience
By Karen Wyman

Did you know that you could now be part of a real gallery experience anytime of the day or night -- no need to locate parking or check gallery hours? You can even attend on a Monday or holiday!

The Ohio University College of Fine Arts has just launched a new online gallery: The McConnaughy Fine Arts Online Gallery; however, this is not an ordinary site. This one features streaming audio and video technology, which allows for the display of time-based artwork.

Video - Click to Play "The Web has been an excellent point of exhibition for still photographers, painters and other two-dimensional artists," says Alastair Thorne, College of Fine Arts instructional technology specialist and co-creator of the site. But now, with streaming video, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, actors and other performance-based artists have the opportunity to exhibit their work via the Web.

The McConnaughy Online Gallery site, which showcases the work of students, alumni and faculty in the college, is named in honor of College of Fine Arts alumnus Tom McConnaughy, BFA '64, and his wife Gwen, whose interest in art, design and technology and generous gift to the college made the site a reality.

"This wouldn't have been possible without the vision, foresight and generosity of Tom and Gwen McConnaughy," says College of Fine Arts Dean Raymond Tymas-Jones. "The Gallery gives us the opportunity to advance awareness of the work of faculty and students while utilizing the technology that has become a part of our everyday lives."

In 2001, Tom and his wife Gwen McConnaughy made a $25,000 gift commitment to the Ohio University Bicentennial Campaign to establish and support, in perpetuity, the McConnaughy Fine Arts Online Gallery. The gift allowed the creation of an endowment to provide ongoing support for the Gallery, along with the purchase of supporting technology.

Widely recognized for the creative elements he brought to the advertising industry, McConnaughy is founder of McConnaughy Stein Schmidt Brown (Chicago) and former chairman emeritus for Euro RSCG Tatham Partners/Chicago.

The project was the brainchild of Thorne and former Assistant Dean for Development Mark Dorgan. Using state-of-the-art technology, Thorne, with assistance from the University's Computer Services and Computer Network Services, set up a dedicated streaming media server.

Paul O'Donnell assisted with site design; additional programming assistance came from Bryan Tarantina. The site is powered by Apple's open source Darwin Streaming Server and client-end operations utilize the QuickTime player to present audio and video content.

Reaching a broad audience through traditional exhibitions has been a challenge for many southeastern Ohio artists. "The Web offers a great alternative site for exhibition; one that breaks all geographical barriers to distribution," says Thorne. "The Gallery is also a great addition to the college's Web presence. Prospective students, parents, alumni and other interested participants can now see actual work being produced here, from anywhere in the world."

This pivotal new site offers artists a vehicle to exhibit work in new ways. It features video and audio work as well as still images of artwork "blended together in a simple and elegant way," says Thorne.

The unadorned "walls" of the McConnaughy Gallery aim to resemble a traditional gallery space and best serve to highlight the artwork on view. Although the site is organized to emulate a physical gallery experience, the intent is not to imitate that experience. When you visit the site, you select areas of interest and are given a randomly selected "tour."

In a very similar way, when you enter a physical gallery space, you instinctively -- or randomly -- move around the room, with your eyes or your body's movement. An object catches your eye and you instinctively move toward -- or away -- from it. The McConnaughy Gallery allows you to act in the same way, virtually creating this highly personal and unique experience.

In addition to the online gallery, the project has provided an important technological infrastructure for the college. A number of technological resources are now available for College of Fine Arts faculty and students, including the streaming media server, which allows audio and video content to be reproduced not only on the Gallery site, but also on any of the college's Web sites.

The Gallery currently contains painting, ceramics, sculpture and works on paper as well as film, video and music. The evolutionary possibilities are huge as the Gallery continues to expand and grow with the addition of new material and media. College of Fine Arts faculty, students and alumni may submit work for exhibition consideration at cofait@ohio.edu.

"The McConnaughy Gallery will always be a virtual experience," says Thorne. "I won't argue that looking at a photo of a three-dimensional object online is anything like really seeing, smelling, and -- if you're lucky -- touching it, but I can imagine a future where these boundaries between real and virtual, between object and record, begin to break down. There are already many works of art, even whole sculpture gardens that exist only virtually, only online."

The McConnaughy Gallery is a small wonder for now, but who knows what its future will hold?

Karen Wyman is the director of marketing and communications for the Kennedy Museum of Art and the College of Fine Arts

 

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