Inside MCAD's New M/LAB
Inside MCAD's New M/LAB
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MCAD, meet M/LAB, a transformative space as ambitious, creative, progressive, and impressive as the students and community it now serves. 

In 2014, the college reconfigured the third floor of its 1974 Main Building into a twenty-first century media laboratory. M/LAB, the region’s finest educational production facility, equips students with the hands-on experience they need to produce professional-caliber work in film, animation, photography, web, and multimedia.

This technologically advanced educational space prepares students for a journey of creative self-exploration while they develop valuable skills that will help launch them toward careers in the media arts.

Designed by the award-winning Minneapolis architectural firm of James Dayton Design, the 13,000-plus square-foot M/LAB houses expanded film and animation studios; four e-classrooms that allow users to work on collaborative, multidisciplinary projects; a state-of-the-art sound-mixing studio; digital and analog photography labs; and a dramatic “black box” experimental exhibition and performance space that appears to float above the MCAD Main Gallery. A striking, new glass bridge connects the Black Box, the third-story public spaces, and the rest of M/LAB. Plus, the facility meets 21st-century standards for environmentally efficient buildings.
 


 

Funding for the $3.2 million M/LAB has come from generous donors who recognize the value of staying atop the latest tools and technology—today and into the future. That’s why many have contributed funds specifically to construct, equip, and maintain the space through future technology upgrades. Dedicated to M/LAB construction, these forward-looking funds complement numerous other contributions toward scholarships and other college initiatives.

Mary Lazarus, the former chair of MCAD’s board of trustees, says she’s proud to have made a major financial commitment to push the college to the forefront of technology in arts education. She says its M/LAB project “will also help us continue to live up to our reputation as being on the cutting edge.” Bruce Bean, a longtime MCAD board member and also a supporter, says M/LAB is evidence of MCAD’s commitment to “adapt to the world of design and art.” Bean appreciates how M/LAB funds have been invested—not on the creation of expensive new buildings, but on adapting the current campus footprint while securing the latest infrastructure for a multimedia curriculum.
 


 

Today, M/LAB is a tangible embodiment of MCAD’s longstanding commitment to making available the industry’s latest technological tools and opportunities for students and the community.

It’s no surprise: For more than 130 years, MCAD has been the Twin Cities’ leading incubator of creative talent, a place where innovative visual artists explore new ideas, practices, and technologies. With our bustling urban campus situated in the diverse, historic Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis, MCAD serves as both a prestigious college and an important community resource for arts education. Here, degree-seeking students and community artists have access to studios, cameras, and computers loaded with the latest design and editing software. Indeed, technology has always been part of MCAD’s DNA. In addition to its renowned faculty and innovative curriculum, the college has been a pioneer in making accessible the technological tools that shape the artist and designers of tomorrow. Graduates of the media arts program, many of whom have gone on to successful careers, have credited the technical skills and intellectual foundations they received at MCAD with giving them a competitive edge.


Integral to any educational facility is intellectual exchange—between educator and student and among student peers. As part of the new M/LAB facility, additional spaces have been created for critique and individual lab work, and technologically advanced e-classrooms allow students to easily design, create, and edit interdisciplinary projects.

Without a doubt, a majority of students today arrive at MCAD already tech-savvy. Passionate about the arts and motivated by their creative pursuits, these digital natives demonstrate an astonishing aptitude and are daring, employing a wide range of technology to spur and express their creativity.

Now, M/LAB boosts students to the next level.

 

With access to M/LAB, coupled with MCAD’s accomplished faculty, students develop sophisticated skills with the industry-standard equipment in use in their post-graduation environments. What’s more, M/LAB gives them fertile opportunities to work in interdisciplinary teams on collaborative projects, experiences that will also serve them in their developing careers.

Finally, it positions students for an array of roles in the robust media sector, providing professional-tier tools to hone and showcase their creative abilities. An impressive portfolio is the calling card students will use to distinguish their skills in a competitive employment market.

M/LAB, a professional production and performance environment without equal in the Upper Midwest, is the educational media facility all eyes are on. And it’s only at MCAD.
 

 

M/LAB’s Technology and Tools

Thanks to M/LAB, for the first time in MCAD’s history:

  • The web and multimedia environments program will have a dedicated studio/lab space.
  • A Black Box experimental gallery now provides a malleable light-controlled space for projection, interactive installations, film and animation screenings, photo and 3D installations, and more.
  • Studios are now illuminated with high-efficiency LED lights.
  • A sound recording and mixing studio allows for 5.1 surround sound production and mixing.
  • Black and Gray Studios boast professional cyclorama sweeps, including a new core cyclorama and a chroma green screen.


 



NEXT Spring 2015

 

This article was originally published in NEXT, the Magazine of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

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