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New Museum’s Incubator Will Help Artists Explore Emerging Technologies

New Museum’s Incubator Will Help Artists Explore Emerging Technologies
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NEW INC will mentor the next generation of art-tech prodigies.

Rachel Oliner, PSFK
  • 17 march 2014

In this digital age, artists and entrepreneurs have many more tools at their disposal and are creating interactive installations the likes of which have never been seen before, thanks to production methods like 3D printing and devices like the Arduino microcontroller and the mind-bending Oculus Rift.

These emerging – and not necessarily lucrative – technologies caught the eye of the New Museum, who has developed an incubator in response to the rapid and ongoing changes in production methods. Both a collaborative workspace and a professional development program, NEW INC will support a “new breed” of creatives who are focused on innovative ways of working. With prototyping labs and screening rooms, the 11,000 square-foot space will support the artists and entrepreneurs bold enough to experiment with these technologies that will shape the art world for the years to come.

PSFK chatted with Julia Kaganskiy, the Director of NEW INC, about the role that the incubator will play in fostering a relationship between artists and emerging technologies, as well as the impact that it will have on the New Museum’s programming and surrounding community.

What are the goals of the incubator program, and how do you plan to achieve them?

We wanted to create something that filled the gap between business/tech incubators and artist residency programs, something that provides an alternative for the countless projects that fall through the cracks because they don’t neatly fit either model. A place where projects too weird and risky for the VC community can find a home and the support to thrive. Where those working at the intersection of art, design and technology can develop their ideas, experiment with new tools, develop some essential business skills, and maybe try out new creative economic models that are not exclusively tied to grants and the art market.


Confronted with limited resources and opportunities for arts funding, we’re seeing more artists and designers thinking and working entrepreneurially – perhaps starting a creative studio, building a product, developing a platform, crowdfunding their ideas or taking on commercial projects to subsidize their artistic practice.


As this way of working becomes increasingly common, our incubator intends to provide support in the form of business training and professional development, a mentorship program and access to a network of advisors and experts who can help guide the way. We want to leverage the museum’s expertise to help artists and designers navigate these conversations and provide a kind of cultural stewardship for developing these initiatives.

 

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Why is it important to develop the relationship between art, tech and design?

These days everyone is talking about how important “creativity” is in innovation. We’ve got countless articles teaching us how to be more creative, ranking the “Most Creative People in Business,” and so forth. Creativity used to be the purview of artists and designers, of “creative professionals,” but now everyone is creative. It’s one of the most desirable traits no matter whether you’re an engineer, a business analyst, or a kindergarten teacher.


But creativity is really just about seeing things differently, approaching an old idea from a radically different angle and in the process inventing something new. Artists, designers and engineers are all creative – but artists and designers are far more likely to approach the same problem or piece of technology from a totally different standpoint, seeing possibilities or limitations that an engineer might otherwise not see, or simply not be looking for.


I think it’s important to combine these different perspectives and ways of thinking. On the one hand, this kind of interdisciplinary thinking helps drive and accelerate innovation by exposing new approaches and avenues to explore. On the other hand, I also find that artists and designers tend to approach technology from a more humanistic perspective, and are far more likely to take a critical stance or tackle difficult questions like those of ethics, privacy, policy, etc. For these reasons, and more, I think they have an important role to play in the conversation around technology and innovation and I want to bring those different camps closer together because I think there’s a lot to be learned from that exchange.

What programs are you eager to implement?

We are in the process of developing a weekly professional development program – a kind of seminar where we’ll be bringing in various experts to lecture and conduct hands-on workshops covering various business-training topics: law, accounting, branding and PR, production and fabrication, etc.


This will be the backbone of our program and will be supplemented with more informal peer-to-peer skillshares and presentations organized by the membership community, lunchtime lectures with visiting guests, regular social gatherings and networking opportunities with the extended incubator community, and more structured collaborative programs like hackathons and design sprints.


We’re trying not to over-program it to start because, at the end of the day, people will be there to work, not attend classes. We’re also leaving it fairly open-ended because we want to be able to adapt and tailor the programming to the needs and interest of our community. We want them to have a hand in shaping it.

How will the output manifest within the museum’s space, and will it impact museum programming?

This is something that will largely depend on the people and projects that ultimately end up on the space. While we certainly have speculations, we won’t really know what the output is until we select the membership community.
That said, we are thinking of hosting public presentations or symposia at the museum to introduce the work and projects being developed at the incubator to the greater Museum community. Other than that, we’ll be exploring opportunities for working with the museum’s programming on a case by case basis. Some programs, like IDEAS CITY for instance, present natural synergies and we’ve already started a few conversations, but it’s too early to say how they will unfold.

How do you see this connecting with the larger start up scene within the city, and the community at large?

I could see lots of opportunities for collaboration – be it through educational programming, mentorships, or other partnerships. There’s a number of NYC-based start-ups that come to mind as natural allies – Kickstarter, Vimeo, Adafruit, MakerBot, Shapeways, Quirky, the list goes on and on. One of the best things about the NYC start-up scene is that it’s so diverse and multi-dimensional, and extends into so many different industries, there’s a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from forging those connections.


In terms of connecting with the greater NYC community, our hope is that several of the projects in the incubator might lean towards civic or social innovation. We’re already seeing some applications along these lines, which is exciting – groups who want to contribute to urban planning projects, or engage with the diverse communities that populate the area in and around the Bowery. That’s definitely an ethos that we want to incorporate into the work being done at the incubator.

Thanks Julia!

Check out NEW INC for more information on incubator membership, the application process, and the workspace.

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