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'Vizzers' break-in historic venue with futuristic twist

Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013

Updated: Monday, May 6, 2013 01:05

vis a gogo

Josh McKenna

(Left) Jack Eggebrecht, visualization graduate student, watches as kids test a video game he helped develop at the Viz-a-GoGo on Saturday

Viz-a-GoGo, an annual program that features work from A&M graduate students in the visualization programs, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a trip through time in one very famous DeLorean.

Viz-a-GoGo was held Saturday with the theme “Viz to the Future,” a play on the 1985 film “Back to the Future.” The event consisted of a still-art exhibit and as a screening of short videos showcasing the digital mastery of the “Vizzers.”

The exhibit opened in the Queen Theatre in downtown Bryan on Tuesday — the first public event in the historic venue in more than 40 years.

 “The public interest is really huge and I think it’s not only because of the typical Viz-a-GoGo enthusiasts but also the larger community,” said Dick Davison, A&M professor of architecture and visualization. “The community in Bryan knows the Queen and we sort of rebirthed the Queen.”

Tim McLaughlin, head of the Department of Visualization, said although he was around for the first Viz-a-GoGo event, it has changed a lot from the small personal event it had been.

“It became a bigger production, they started to make it more of a show and students were really working hard to put it together,” McLaughlin said.

Davison said the task of getting the Queen Theater up to fire code was daunting.

“We just took it one thing at a time,” Davison said. “By about two weeks ago, the space was essentially a safe space and we got the final blessing from the fire marshal last Monday.”

Although visualization studies have offered a Master of Science degree since 1989, the Department of Visualization was formally created in January 2009 and was followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Visualization program in 2012, Texas A&M's first graduate-level fine arts degree.

“[It’s] an amazing blend of art and science, which is academically unorthodox,” Davison said. “They have their feet on the ground, heads in the stars.”

Some visualization graduates have acquired positions at animation companies such as Pixar, Blue Sky, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Dreamworks.

Before the screening at the event, Pixar and Dreamworks Studios announced winners of scholarships awarded by the studios.

“Former students get together and review the work [presented at Viz-a-GoGo] and make choices about who they think are the students who performed the best and contribute money towards scholarships for those students,” McLaughlin said
The video screening showcased 38 short clips made and designed by visualization graduate students that were shown between four clips that told the story of a “vizzer” who is sent to 1993 and must find his way back to 2013, a “Back to the Future” parody.

Many students had positive feedback on the event.

“I was really impressed with all the different projects,” said Emily Drastata, sophomore environmental geoscience major. “You could tell they really put their hearts and lots of time and effort into it.”

Lizzy Pearson, senior biomedical science major, said her roommate was a visualization graduate student and had heard about the event from her.

“She’s been talking to me about all the projects so it’s been really cool to see it all come together with the final product,” Pearson said.

The event also included a reunion featuring programs such as the “Best of Viz” screening of student work from the past 20 years. Former students said it was nice to return and see how the program has evolved over time.

“It’s neat to see how [the Viz department] has evolved,” said Christopher Kocmound, software engineer, professor of Digital Arts and Class of 1997. “I love that there is an undergraduate program now and Tim McLaughlin is the department head. He truly tailors it to the industry.”

Davison said, regarding the evolution of the Department of Visualization, that the same creative process transcends fields of creative study.

“Human beings love meaningful, beautiful images that speak to their hearts,” Davison said. “[Visualization] is a new medium. The radically new, changing tools just bring a whole new dimension, but we are still trying to create a powerful, beautiful statement just the same as Rembrandt and other famous artists did.” 

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