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Media Arts AmeriCorps Intern Helps Develop Climate Change Exhibit for LANL

Students examine new display at the Bradbury Museum

Photo: David Estrada
Dominic Brooks, left, Nicole Bariahtaris, and Mireya Rodríguez, right, test a prototype for the new exhibit, Climate Prisms: Arctic, at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. Rodríguez is a media arts graduate and AmeriCorps alumna.

Las Vegas, N.M – The science behind Arctic climate change will be more approachable at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Bradbury Science Museum thanks to videos produced by a Highlands University media arts student.

David Estrada, a media arts software-driven systems design graduate student, produced 15 half-minute videos for the museum’s new interactive exhibit, Climate Prisms: Arctic, that focuses on LANL scientists’ research. He is part of Highlands’ one-of-a-kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program, a partnership with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

“Climate Prisms is a way to explore the science of Arctic climate change through various modalities such as art, scientific writing, photography, video and poetry,” said Linda Deck, Bradbury Science Museum director. “It’s important to have the words and the personalities of the LANL scientists expressed in this exhibit. David is a wonderful interviewer who coaxed the excitement of discovery out of the scientists. He’s also an excellent editor. David’s impressive videos add a lively, active aspect to the information in the exhibit.”

Deck said the goal of Climate Prisms, which is still being developed, is to help people build their own unique understanding of climate change. The exhibit features the artwork of Francesca Samsel that merges research, science data, and visualization.

“The idea for Climate Prisms is to present the climate change material in artistic ways to make it more dynamic and engaging for a wider audience,” Estrada said. “The LANL scientists were enthusiastic about sharing their Arctic climate change data with the public. It was both fascinating and personally rewarding to use the craft of filmmaking to communicate the scientific concepts in a captivating, informative way.”

Estrada is one of 20 Highlands media arts students placed as paid interns in museums and cultural institutions throughout the state this summer as part of the university’s AmeriCorps Cultural Technology (ACT) Program.

“The real-world experience of working with a team towards the common goal of creating a new museum exhibit was extremely valuable. My programming knowledge was useful when the exhibit team brainstormed how the end user would experience the images,” Estrada said.

Deck said Highlands media arts graduate Mireya Rodríguez is doing an exceptional job as the data coordinator for Climate Prisms. Rodríquez works as an intern in LANL’s post-baccalaureate program.
“I love working with the media arts program at Highlands and think the world of the professors and students,” Deck said.

In July, Highlands University’s Media Arts and Technology Department was awarded a $140,081 federal grant for 20 more students to be placed as AmeriCorps interns in 2015¬–2016. It is the sixth consecutive year Highlands received the AmeriCorps grant, totaling $732,186 in funding.

“Over the past five years, these AmeriCorps projects have changed the way the public experiences New Mexico culture and history,” said Lauren Addario, ACT Program director. “The mentors at the museums tell us that our AmeriCorps interns bring technical savvy, a fresh creative perspective, and a strong professional work ethic to the innovative projects they produce.”

Addario said there is a great deal of variety and public impact in the multimedia projects the students developed this summer.

“The projects range from preserving the stories of New Mexico’s World War II veterans through an oral history project for the New History Museum to creating a prototype for a 3-D printer simulated game to help people experience Pueblo culture at the Coronado Historic Site,” Addario said.

Some other internships sites include the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation, Youth Media Project, and Parachute Factory, a Las Vegas makerspace Highlands media arts graduate Mariano Ulibarri developed.