An atypical creative space celebrates 30 years of exploring the unknown.
Housed in a century-old former library, the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry is a unique department with a remit to get weird. Equal parts media lab, performance space, research hub and community workspace, the STUDIO is an institution that resists easy definition. This year marks its 30th year of operation, and to celebrate the occasion, the STUDIO will host “INTERSECTIONS” — a retrospective exhibition at CMU’s Miller Institute of Contemporary Art—and launch a new Director’s Fund to help support its next 30 years.
Founded in 1989 as the research laboratory of the College of Fine Arts, the STUDIO was conceived as “a transmitter of experimental ideas,” “an incubator for linking us to the future,” and “as a development site for activities on the edge—a cultural ‘free zone’ where the unnameable can be nurtured.” Since its inception, the STUDIO has hosted hundreds of visiting creatives-in-residence, and raised more than $7.5 million dollars, in support of arts research at the edge of the recently possible. As a center for the comprehensive support and administration of arts research, and as a locus for hybrid enterprises across the arts, the STUDIO has become a key structural advantage of the College, with few peers nationally or internationally.
In 2012, a generous gift by alumni Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye established the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier—a fund, administered by the STUDIO, to enable ground-breaking projects by faculty, staff and students at CMU. Through grants ranging from as little as $10 to as much as $10,000, the fund has supported some 300 projects, performances, artworks and investigations. More recently, in late 2017, the STUDIO was made steward of the Sylvia and David Steiner Speaker Series, to provide presentations by national and international leaders in the entertainment and cultural industries. In the first year of this program, the STUDIO hosted 19 public lectures and more than 20 other public engagement events, such as charrettes, performances and workshops.
The INTERSECTIONS exhibition runs October 11 through November 17 at the Miller ICA, and includes both documentation and working installations of many unique, unusual, and unexpected collaborations fostered at the STUDIO—including Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict; the Moon Arts Project, a partnership with the CMU Robotics Institute to develop artworks for its 2020 lunar rover mission; Deep Lab, a cyberfeminist congress organized to examine themes of privacy, security, surveillance; Mimus, an industrial robot that’s curious about the world around her; and CLOUDS, an interactive, VR-based documentary about new media arts practices. Coincident with the exhibition, the STUDIO will launch the Director’s fund, a flexible source of support to address new opportunities in timely ways.