Imagine If Buildings Could Talk

Imagine If Buildings Could Talk 3D mapped video (film still), 2017. Photo © Scott Meador

“Imagine If Buildings Could Talk”, a 3D mapped video projection by University of Central Arkansas film professor Dr. Scott Meador, with the soundtrack by UCA music professor Dr. Blake Tyson, will be the centerpiece of the Sept. 23-24 weekend commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.

The video is part of the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication’s commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the building of Little Rock Central High School in 1927 and the 60th anniversary of the desegregation crisis that occurred there in 1957 through the “Imagine If Buildings Could Talk: Mapping the History of Little Rock Central High School” project.

The eight-minute video, which will be projected directly onto the front façade of the school at 1500 S. Park St., will run every 15 minutes from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sept. 23-24. Admission is free.

When it was built, Central High School was hailed as the most expensive, most beautiful and largest high school in the nation.

“For a once-in-a-life time event such as the 60th commemoration, we wanted to find an artistic language that would speak to the widest possible audience and, figuratively, light the world on fire,” said Dr. Gayle Seymour, associate dean of UCA’s College of Fine Arts and Communication and the project director. “The 3D-projection mapping video on the Central High façade will do just that. You don’t want to miss it.”

Through 21st-century visual effects, Meador will transform the building from its familiar state to blueprints, to construction and to opening day in 1927. Through animation techniques, the iconic architectural figures — representing the attributes of Ambition, Personality, Opportunity and Preparation — will come alive. Using images from school yearbooks and the Tiger mascot, Meador will immortalize Central’s essential school spirit. He will also use historical footage of the crisis to transport viewers back to 1957 to experience the gripping national drama of desegregation.

The video will end with hope for the future represented by artwork created by students across the state as well as symbols from the school’s educational mission.

“Projection mapping a building is like performing magic,” Meador said. “It is my hope that the audience will be delighted by the building exterior’s magical transformation and also see how its students have transformed its identity over the last 90 years.”

To punctuate the narrative elements of the video, herald the dramatic imagery and draw viewers to the site, Tyson has created an original score for six percussionists performing on three marimbas, two vibraphones and one glockenspiel that will be broadcast along with the video performance.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the LRCHS desegregation, Tyson’s “The Surface of the Sky” will also be performed by more than 30 percussion ensembles from colleges and universities around the U.S., including those at Baylor University, Eastman School of Music and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I hope the piece will inspire the students who perform it, and the audiences who hear it, to learn more about the achievements of the Little Rock Nine and to discover more about the sacrifices made by all those who have fought against racism and injustice across our country,” Tyson said.

Seymour said she anticipated Tyson’s score would become part of the standard repertoire of high school and college percussion ensembles and live beyond the life of this project.

“The score will be supplemented by program notes and an accompanying demonstration video, ensuring teachers and students will continue to be engaged through music with the struggle for civil rights beyond the commemorative anniversary events,” she said.

Meador, associate professor in the Department of Film, Theatre and Creative Writing, teaches courses in visual-effects compositing, visual storytelling, production design and 3D animation. He is active in stage design and visualization for live events, including international concert tours and university theatre productions. His credits include video projections for Metallica, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and the New Century Saxophone Quartet, among others.

Tyson, professor of percussion in the Department of Music, has composed works that are performed around the world by professional artists as well as students of all levels. A skilled marimba player, Tyson has performed in more than 30 states and five continents.

Funding for “Imagine If Buildings Could Talk” is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, marking 51 years of excellence, and the National Park Service, celebrating its 101st birthday. Imagine Your Parks is a grant initiative from the NEA created in partnership with the NPS to support projects that use the arts to engage people with memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System.

This project is also generously funded by grants from the Mid-America Arts Alliance (Artistic Innovations Program), and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Additional grant funding is provided by the Arkansas Arts Council (Collaborative Support Program), an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, contact Seymour at 501-450-3295 or at gayles@uca.edu or visit uca.edu/cfac/central60/central60events/

The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the Departments of Art, Music, and Film, Theatre and Creative Writing, as well as the School of Communication. The college’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit www.uca.edu/cfac or call 501-450-3293.