Inside Rensselaer
* EMPAC Nears Completion; Grand Opening Celebrations Kick Off Oct. 3
EMPAC Nears Completion; Grand Opening Celebrations Kick Off Oct. 3
The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is nearing completion, and Rensselaer will celebrate its grand opening with three weekends of special events, exhibits, and performances — demonstrating the opportunities EMPAC will bring in the arts, sciences, and technology.

“The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center will be home to a new intellectual community at Rensselaer at the intersection of the sciences, engineering, design, technology and architecture with the performing arts, media studies, and the humanities,” says President Shirley Ann Jackson. “When it opens in October, EMPAC not only will enhance and evolve the culture of our campus, but also will shape and be part of a broader national dialogue at the nexus of the arts and sciences.”

The first weekend, beginning on Friday, Oct. 3, will begin with a Presidential colloquy, moderated by President Jackson, with prominent participants from arts, media, and science organizations. Details of that event will be announced in the near future.

The colloquy will be followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will feature remarks by Chairman of the Board of Trustees Samuel Heffner ’56, President Jackson, and others at the east plaza entry to EMPAC.

Friday will conclude with private tours and events. Saturday and Sunday will offer a range of activities to introduce EMPAC to the campus community, the Institute’s neighbors in Troy and the surrounding areas, and the world, including:
  • A classical music concert presented in the EMPAC concert hall, an environment of unprecedented acoustical purity.
  • A presentation by international collective Workspace Unlimited, including samples of interactive works that combine architecture, artificial intelligence, and a 360-degree screen that surrounds viewers.
  • A presentation of the scientific research capabilities at EMPAC.
  • Voyage, a multimedia performance presented by Japanese collective Dumb Type.
  • The premiere of four EMPAC-commissioned DANCE MOVIES.

On the second weekend, Thursday, Oct. 9 through Saturday, Oct. 11, EMPAC will host a symposium featuring eminent researchers from the science, engineering, humanities, and arts communities in a discussion about where those fields may intersect and connect with EMPAC, and the extent to which they will drive, challenge, augment, and inform each other.

Additionally, renowned jazz performer Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will perform in the EMPAC concert hall Saturday evening.

The third weekend to celebrate EMPAC’s opening — Oct. 17-19, which is also Homecoming and Family Weekend at Rensselaer — will include a variety of events, including performances by student groups and the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

Throughout the opening celebration, exhibits detailing the architectural and artistic history of EMPAC, as well as its future potential as a performing arts and research platform, will be on display.

A spectacularly designed and engineered 220,000-square-foot creative “collaboratory” for performance and research, EMPAC will allow for unprecedented scientific and artistic exploration at the edges of the virtual and physical worlds.

EMPAC’s multipurpose black box studios, 1,200-seat concert hall, 400-seat theater, studios for researchers and artists and scholars-in-residence, and research and post-production suites, will be used to advance frontiers in visualization, cognitive science, human-scale simulation, agent-based modeling, and a host of other areas.

When paired with the Rensselaer supercomputer (the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations), EMPAC will enable human-scale exploration of immersive/sensory environments and, therefore, unprecedented, investigation of fluid dynamics, artificial intelligence, free-space optics, molecular design, financial modeling, nanotechnology, gaming and simulation, and much more.

There will be a visiting researcher/scholar program to bring world-class talent to Rensselaer to collaborate with our faculty and students in leading-edge research and technology arenas.

In addition to groundbreaking research capabilities, EMPAC will allow performing and visual artists — from musicians to dancers to artists — the time (in most instances, an extended residency) and space to explore ideas on the forefront of their disciplines. This incubation process will allow artists the time, freedom, and resources — including technical and curatorial support — to develop their work.

The varying size of the spaces, combined with the technical hard wiring — which, among other things, allows for the creation of 360-degree immersive projection environments — offers artists incredible flexibility in conducting research and developing/presenting works.

All students, faculty, and staff will be receiving invitations to celebrate the grand opening of EMPAC. For the latest opening event information, go to the EMPAC Web site at

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 14, September 5, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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