WSUV students turn streaming videos from school project to nonprofit

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator



If you go

What: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Gala.

Where: Limited tickets are available at Heathman Lodge, 7801 N.E. Greenwood Drive, Vancouver. It is being broadcast live online at http://vancouvera...

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday; select performances will be streamed to Web audiences.

Cost: $135. Advance purchases must be made by 4 p.m. today by calling 360-735-7278; tickets are also available at the door Saturday. The online show is free

Information: http://vancouvera..., http://www.vancou...

Nearly everything can be found on the Internet these days. From virtually strolling through New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to watching the live, one-take performance for a band’s music video. But two graduating students from Washington State University Vancouver’s Creative Media & Digital Culture Program saw a gap in Internet culture. Not enough community-based arts groups were finding representation online. Dale Strouse and Mikhail Oparin envisioned Clark County artists getting world-wide exposure while keeping grounded to the local community. They created Vancouver Arts Live, an online hub of streaming videos featuring local performances, artists and events for their senior seminar project, putting the website together in just a semester.

Now they want to turn their student project into a full-time nonprofit.

At WSU Vancouver’s annual Research Showcase on April 14, local singer and songwriter Adam Dvorak belted out his song “Stand Up, Scream Out” to the gathered students and to anyone watching on the Internet. The streaming video played on a projection screen, showing online comments in real time, with one viewer asking for a close-up of Adam’s fingers playing the guitar. Strouse relayed the request to Oparin, and soon the camera zooms in on the guitar strings. Behind the camera, Oparin wore a variety of hats as he switched between being the director, cameraman, audio technician and producer. Meanwhile, Strouse managed the social media on his laptop, chatting with online viewers and taking photos of the small crowd.

“We don’t separate our duties, instead we just go and do it. Everything each one of us brings to the table helps us get involved and contribute to the cause, because we both have faith in our community and believe this is our civic duty to promote arts and culture in Vancouver,” said Oparin in an email.

Strouse and Oparin hope to provide a platform to get the word out about cultural events in Clark County. Oparin dreams of a four- to six-person crew streaming performances and interacting online in real time at a variety of different venues. Their current set-up is very mobile, with just a camera, audio mixer, lights and a cluster of microphones, all connected to a computer with an Internet signal.

They are looking to partner with Fort Vancouver Community Television to broadcast their video streams on a more traditional medium. They also want to produce their own content, such as interviews with artists and how-to videos. They’ll consider accepting content from outside sources, but only if it meets their requirements of quality and relates to the local art scene.

Though they have grand dreams, the pair realize their project faces many challenges, from finding funding to the tricky nature of performance licenses. At the moment, Vancouver Arts Live has partnered with the Vancouver Symphony, using the symphony’s status as a nonprofit to help the group pursue their own grants. Dr. Dene Grigar, director of the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at WSU Vancouver, is also on the Vancouver Symphony’s Board of Directors and supports the potential in Vancouver Arts Live. She envisions Vancouver Symphony’s performances streaming online to those who can’t make it to the concerts, as well as cultivating a new audience in the media-driven generation.

But streaming performances won’t completely replace actually going to the shows. Both Oparin and Strouse view Vancouver Arts Live more as a venue to promote local arts and culture. Rather than giving away a broadcast of a full show, they imagine streaming only the first act of a theater performance to give audiences a taste.

“We want to generate interest and participation,” said Strouse, “so people can see it for themselves.”

Though the project is still in its infancy, everyone who’s seen Strouse and Oparin hard at work streaming a performance gets sucked into the passion they have for local arts and culture.

As Dvorak finished his performance at the April 14 showcase, Oparin turned the camera around to the cheering crowd and the Internet viewers added their own applause. It was a surreal moment for those realizing that half the crowd was virtual, yet the feeling of seeing a live performance was still palpable.

Vancouver Arts Live will be broadcasting the opening remarks and select performances by Maestro Salvador Brotons, Dr. Michael Liu and their young artists from Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Gala at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.