Virginia Tech is hosting faculty, administrators, and thought leaders from institutions across the nation working toward a common goal — integrating arts and design practices into the fabric of research institutions and facilitating collaboration.

The 2015 national conference for the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) kicked off yesterday at the Moss Arts Center and continues through Wednesday, Nov. 11. The working conference is designed to bring together partners and allies to explore the next generation of opportunities and challenges facing arts transdisciplinary practice, peer review, infrastructures, and partnerships in research universities.

Virginia Tech is one of over 30 alliance partner institutions. The university’s involvement is spearheaded by Arts@VirginiaTech, a collective of the university’s academic art programs and arts presenters.

Ben Knapp, director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, and Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, are the university’s alliance representatives and joined Laurie Baefsky, executive director of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, to deliver the conference’s welcoming remarks.

The event provides an opportunity for alliance partners to develop and test shared values and criteria for reviewing and understanding research and creative practice in the third space — where work beyond traditional academic boundaries happens; create shared practices guidelines for third space research and work combining science, engineering, arts, and design; and explore emerging cultural policy platforms.

Virginia Tech’s Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork) has been selected by the alliance as one of six projects highlighted at the conference as transdisciplinary exemplars that integrate arts and design practices with research across disciplines.  The world’s first Linux-based laptop orchestra, the intermedia ensemble cross-pollinates the work of the traditional western classical orchestra with human-computer interaction technologies, exploring the expressive power of gesture, communal interaction, and the multidimensionality of the arts.

Founded by Ivica Ico Bukvic, associate professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts, the Linux Laptop Orchestra is part of an interdisciplinary initiative between the Virginia Tech Digital Interactive Sound and Intermedia Studio and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

The projects selected for the conference feature work from Arizona State University, Penn State, the University of Oregon, San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of California, Davis. These projects extend beyond the boundaries and limitations of traditional peer review methods and represent new and innovative synergies that foster creativity, collaboration, and integrative problem-solving strategies. 

Open, guided critique sessions will help build the foundation for a new peer review process led by the alliance, which will have implications for research, curriculum development, collaborative projects, and tenure and promotion in higher education.

The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) is a partnership of over 30 institutions committed to transforming research universities in order to ensure the greatest possible institutional support for interdisciplinary research, curricula, programs, and creative practice between the arts and other disciplines. The organization is housed at the University of Michigan.