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$9M Gift Establishes New Institute for Performance and Technology in the Arts at the University of Maryland

Stage Directions • Industry News • February 15, 2021

The University of Maryland (UMD) announced a $9 million gift to its School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) to boldly reimagine the future of education in the performing arts. Mathematics Professor Emeritus Michael Brin and his wife Eugenia and the Brin Family Foundation are establishing the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance, which will add courses, expand research, and fund new teaching positions, undergraduate scholarships, classroom and studio renovations, and instructional technology.

The gift brings the university’s fundraising total for its Fearless Ideas campaign to $1.4 billion, approaching its record $1.5 billion goal by the end of this year. The campaign has engaged 109,000 donors to date.

“We are incredibly proud of our university’s connection to Michael, Eugenia, and the entire Brin family, and we are grateful for their continued generosity as champions of Maryland. There has never been a more timely moment to apply technology to the arts to extend their reach and inspiration,” said Darryll J. Pines, president of the University of Maryland.

The institute will advance TDPS’s role as an innovator in design and performance and prepare graduates to launch careers in emerging media formats such as webcasts, immersive design technology, and virtual reality performance.

Clove, directed by Paige Hernandez ’02, fused stage technology with hip-hop. Photo by Geoff Sheil

The institute will allow TDPS “to make transformative advances in the work that they have begun doing to bring technology into the performance domain,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “We will be at the forefront of applications and modifications of technology and theater. We’ll be able to expand our existing work and really become a national leader. Our students will have knowledge and experience that will prepare them to be among the first people hired as this new technology develops.”

A new light and technology studio and multimedia labs and an upgraded dance studio in the university’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will provide creative space for five additional faculty positions in lighting design for camera, live digital performance, technology and multimedia production, and other fields. Full-stage green screens, GoPro cameras, laser projectors, and remote rehearsal technology will broaden performing options. Future classes will include “Video Design for Dance and Theater” and “Experimental Interfaces and Physical Computations.”

The idea of combining the arts and technology inspired this new gift. “I want to… open opportunities to the students and faculty in interactions between new media and traditional art,” said Michael Brin, who retired from UMD in 2011 after 31 years on its faculty. The Brins, parents to Google co-founder Sergey ’93 and Samuel ’09, have previously made several significant gifts to support the university’s computer science and math departments and Russian and dance programs, the latter two to honor Michael Brin’s late mother, Maya. She emigrated with her family from the Soviet Union in 1979 and taught in UMD’s Russian program for nearly a decade.

“We’re going to see (the influence of this gift) in every performance,” said Maura Keefe, TDPS director and associate professor of dance performance and scholarship. “The excitement from the students who are exploring the ideas—that’s going to show up across the work we’re making.”

 

 

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