In late June, the National Endowment for the Arts released its report, Tech As Art: Supporting Artists Who Use Technology as a Creative Medium. Based on two years of research that Dot Connector Studio conducted in partnership with 8 Bridges Workshop, this ambitious project was jointly funded by the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

The intent of the report is to “document the work of artists who make, interrogate, and disrupt contemporary digital technologies for creative and aesthetic purposes, and whose practices are enmeshed in the possibilities inherent in technology itself.” 

Download the report here.

Birds-eye view of large gallery room with large bean bag cushions scattered on the floor and 5 people in the center of the room taking photos of and with the space. Projections on each wall of colorful circular psychedelic-like pattern.
Photo of Future Sketches (2020), an interactive and immersive experience produced by ARTECHOUSE in collaboration with artist Zach Lieberman. Photo courtesy of ARTECHOUSE

“The backdrop to this research is the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of public gathering spaces around the world in 2020,” writes Media Arts Director Jax Deluca in the preface. “Artists and cultural organizations had no choice but to pivot practices to reach audiences virtually. As the shutdowns demonstrated, audiences are more than ready to engage digitally—yet many of the practitioners in this report view cultural organizations as underprepared to support the growing digital and virtual needs of artists and audiences.”

The report explores how artists use technologies such as coding, artificial intelligence, immersive installations, virtual reality and other digital tools and platforms for creative production, and how they support their work through teaching, residencies, gigs, and more. To launch the report, the National Endowment for the Arts hosted a webinar with conversations between artists and funders including Refik Anadol, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Stephanie Dinkins, Ruby Lerner, Omari Rush, and Eleanor Savage. Hrag Vartanian, co-founder of Hyperallergic—an online forum for “serious, playful, and radical thinking about art“—hosted the conversation.

Screen grab of Zoom webinar with four pinned participants. Hrag Vartanian in the top left square with a background of a white wall, plant in background on left and sculpture on right. ASL Interpreter Amber in the top right square with black background. Stephanie Dinkins in the bottom left square with a bright orange background. Amelia Winger-Bearskin in the bottom right square with a living room background featuring couch, blue pillars and TV on wall.

A central theme of the report was the importance of artists building their own tools to support their creative practice and that of other makers. During the event, designer and technologist John Maeda observed, “access to those tools and the ability to take things apart—[to] take software apart and understand it, make it your own—is really the secret to originality in this interesting digital/physical conversion that we are experiencing right now.”

Background in gallery setting with white walls, white door on right side and elevator on left side and a figure standing infront of the elevator. In the foreground a closeup of a woman with curly hair in bun, wearing a black long sleeve shirt, and mouth open wearing goggles with a screen attached over her eyes. On the screen it shows a close up of a person's eyes looking up and to the right.
Interdisciplinary artist Sondra Perry combines video, computer-based media, and performance to explore themes of race, identity, family history, and technology, such as this performance of Young Women Sitting and Standing And Talking and Stuff (No, No, No) at the Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery in 2015. Photo by Sondra Perry, courtesy of the artist and Bridget Donahue, NYC

Now that the report is out in the world, we’re excited about the prospect of working on projects in the tech and art sphere with a new batch of clients. 

Don’t miss these additional resources associated with the report!

Commissioned Essays:

The National Endowment for the Arts commissioned ten essays as a companion to the report which provide context for the arts and culture sector about the larger discussion. Essayists offer new perspectives for industry leaders in tech, discussing the shared goals of tech-centered artists, and examine the evolution from STEM to STEAM. 

Here’s the complete list:

Cast Study Videos:

The report includes case studies of eight artists/organizations who center technology in their work. Eight short videos, profiling each artist, were created to accompany the case studies.. In the videos, you hear from each artist directly about their creative practice as well as their relationship with technology. The case studies include: Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Darcy Neal, Design I/O, Kevin Cunningham, Rekif Anadol, Scatter, Stephanie Dinkins, and Lance Weiler. Find the full YouTube playlist here.

If you’d like to read various Twitter threads regarding the webinar and the report itself, check out the tag #TechAsArt

In order to ensure that this report is useful to artists and funders across the United States, we’ve been working with 8 Bridges Workshop and the National Endowment for the Arts on hosting a series of regional conversations. Stay tuned for more details on these discussions.