Perched above Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., American University’s Katzen Arts Center is known for its striking architecture and the world class visual and performing arts programs housed within. Compelling on multiple levels, it is the jumping off point of every campus tour for prospective students.
But getting the attention of 17-year-old high school seniors has never been more difficult now that they have a galaxy of distractions at their smartphone-enabled finger tips.
“Most of the students today already come into the class with their heads buried [in their phones], [so] to even have them look up at the front of the classroom you better have something pretty compelling,” said Russell Williams, a professor of Film & Media Arts at AU.
Fortunately for Williams, he knows a thing or two about grabbing people’s attentions. He spent 30 years in Hollywood as an Oscar-winning sound producer with such credits as “Dances with Wolves,” “Glory,” and “Field of Dreams” to his name.
The Planning Process
When university officials began planning a renovation of the school’s Welcome Center in room 201 of the Katzen Arts Center, they tapped Williams to quarterback the project, likely in no small part because of that Hollywood background.
When the renovation planning began in 2008, the welcome center presentation revolved around a projector and a pull-down projection screen.
The school knew it needed something more compelling, as did Williams.
“For me, coming from a Hollywood background, it has to serve a story,” Williams said.
With his entertainment background but limited knowledge of the latest A/V technologies, Williams searched exhaustively for education and information. He scoured the Internet