The Portal: The Rye Arts Center’s Newest Public Art Installation

April 1 - June 30, 2017

“Portals are gold spaces equipped with immersive audiovisual technology. When you enter a Portal, you come face-to-face with someone in a distant Portal live and full-body, as if in the same room.” - www.sharedstudios.com

Developed in 2014 by Shared_Studios, there are now more than 20 Portals located around the world. They provide participants with an opportunity to meet individuals from entirely different backgrounds and cultures. The immersive technology and enclosed setting transcends popular video technologies. When President Obama experienced the Portal at the 2016 Entrepreneurship Summit he said, “It seems like you’re standing right in front of me.”

Current Portal locations include Afghanistan, Jordan, Gaza City, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, Myanmar, Rwanda, and several in the United States.

The art installation is so effective at connecting people from across the world that is has been used by the United Nations to communicate with refugees in war-torn locations. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said, “You feel you are right there.”

The Portal is more than a large-scale video conferencing tool, and the nature of the experience is disorienting. You forget that you are stateside or in your region of the country. The fact that you will likely never again see the people you encounter provides a freeing sense of anonymity.

Amar Bakshi, a creator of the Portal explains:

“It is about creating a space, context, and moment for a certain kind of dialogue. Our hope is that Portals not only connect public spaces around the world, but revitalize public spaces at home. Even more specifically, we hope it prompts all of us to seek out those moments to converse with strangers unlike ourselves – to put down the iPhone or laptop on the bus or the train and engage the person next to us. Talking to people unlike ourselves is always important, but particularly so today.”

Participants experience a range of curated and open-ended interactions, from simple prompts like “What would make today a good day?” to highly specific engagements.

In addition to one-on-one encounters, the Portal also opens the door to cultural exchanges: teaching artists can present a class, musicians can share their music, dancers can perform, and poets can read their work.

After speaking with students in Gaza City, The Rye Arts Center’s Executive Director Meg Rodriguez shared, “Our lives are so incredibly different, but what our conversation revealed was our similarities.”

The Rye Arts Center will unveil the Portal at its annual Maker Day, on Saturday, April 1, Noon – 4:00 P.M. You will also have an opportunity to experience the Portal at the organization’s opening reception for Making Their Mark: An Exhibit of Works By Makers on Saturday, April 22, 1:00 – 3:00 P.M. The Rye Arts Center will begin offering regular public Portal hours in late April. You’ll be able to reserve a time slot on their website (www.ryeartscenter.org).

Throughout the span of the installation (April – June) The Rye Arts Center will work with schools and other organizations to schedule Portal encounters so that thousands of visitors can experience this worldview-changing opportunity.

Bringing the Portal to The Rye Arts Center was made possible through the generous support of Sherry & Robert Wiener, Gail Harrison Roman, and The Wallace Fox Foundation. Funding was also provided through grants from ArtsWestchester and The New York State Council on the Arts.

About The Rye Arts Center

Established in 1960, The Rye Arts Center is the largest multi-arts center in the region. It is a community-based not-for-profit dedicated to inspiring interest and maximum participation in the arts in and around Westchester. They offer classes and lessons, performances, exhibitions, and a range of outreach programs. It is located at 51 Milton Road in Rye, NY. For more information, visit www.ryeartscenter.org or call 914-967-0700.

Image credit: Elizabeth Bick/Shared_Studios 


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