Carson Center team tours spaces in California

Left to right:  Brendan Harkin, Swetha Gadwal, Mike Hamilton, Tyson Fiscus, Megan Elliott and Rick Endacott at Pixar Animation Studios. Photo by Joe Starkey.
Left to right: Brendan Harkin, Swetha Gadwal, Mike Hamilton, Tyson Fiscus, Megan Elliott and Rick Endacott at Pixar Animation Studios. Photo by Joe Starkey.

Carson Center team tours spaces in California

calendar icon23 Jan 2018    

Lincoln, Neb.--As the opening date for the new Johnny Carson Center for Emeging Media Arts rapidly approaches in fall 2019, the team responsible for turning the former Nebraska Bookstore into the home for the new center, went to San Francisco and Los Angeles in December to tour spaces and be inspired. 

Those in the group included Director Megan Elliott; Advisory Council member Brendan Harkin; HDR architects Michael Hamilton and Tyson Fiscus; Swetha Gadwal, project and construction manager from Nebraska’s Facilities Planning and Construction; Associate Professor of Film and New Media Richard Endacott; and Joe Starkey, the Carson Center’s administration and communications associate.

During their time in California the Carson Center team met with emerging media arts industry titans, toured a range of industry and educational spaces, and Director Elliott held the inaugural Advisory Council Meeting of the Center at AMD.

The first stop on the trip was a visit to Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (also known as the While at Stanford’s, the team met with Executive Director Sarah Stein Greenberg along with David Kelley, the founder of the and co-founder of international design and consulting firm IDEO. Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, co-authors of “Make Space,” showed the team around the and gave insights behind their design of the space and how much protoyping and iteration had occurred within the design over last 10 years.

“We were all totally inspired by the flexibility of the spaces, and how they support creativity and learning.  In the time we were there we saw one space configured and then re-set three times, and each time the space was configured differently: a drone demonstration, a workshop, and then a communal lunch space,” Elliott said. “And it was a complete thrill to meet David Kelley.”

The team also visited Pixar. Dr Michael “Wave” Johnson, R&D pre-production architect, gave a walkthrough of Pixar while describing Pixar’s process for bringing a movie to life – “Making a film is really about making a million decisions.” 

“It was amazing to walk through the famous atrium of Pixar’s main building, now named after the legend who informed so much of its design: The Steve Jobs Building.  Not only did Steve want a building that would ‘look good 100 years from now,’ he designed an atrium that every Pixar employee would need to walk through to eat, use the restroom, and collect mail— creating a space for ‘creative collisions’ and ‘happy accidents’—which is exactly what happened to us.  We bumped into Pixar’s Head of VR walking through the atrium to get coffee.  Seeing the spaces of an award-winning production company is certainly informing our vision of what the Carson Center’s space and work will become,” Elliott said.

The team also got to learn from the minds behind the Technicolor Experience Center where Carson Center Advisory Council member Lynette Wallworth is an artist-in-residence. The Emmy Award winning Wallworth is currently preparing a virtual reality experience that will premiere at the upcoming Sundance Festival’s New Frontier program.

Advisory Council member Jeff Nicholas, vice president and director of virtual reality creative and production for Live Nation, organized for the team to tour Los Angeles’s YouTube Spaces with Immersive Technology Lead Libor Janicek.  YouTube Spaces contains production stages, green screens, cameras, lights, sound gear, electrical and grip equipment, as well as post-production resources, all of which are available for free for YouTuber’s whose channels have at least 10,000 subscribers.

“Seeing a production facility and ecosystem that was birthed from the internet, supports user generated content, and is totally committed to emerging media arts such as 360 video, XR and artificial intelligence, was incredibly informative,” Elliott said.

Other spaces toured in San Francisco included IDEO, California College of the Arts, Noisebridge hackerspace, the super-hot accelerator and co-working space – Runway, as well as HanaHaus in Palo Alto.

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts held the inaugural meeting of its Advisory Council at AMD on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Members of the Johnny Carson Foundation, as well as Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Dean Charles O’Connor and Associate to the Chancellor Michael Zeleny, were also in attendance. The Advisory Council was impressed with the incredible pace with which the Carson Center is moving forward, the design of the proposed curriculum for the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Emerging Media Arts and the schematic design and direction of the building. 

“Megan Elliott has pulled together a world-class group of advisors to help her execute on a large vision,” said board member Preeta Bansal, a senior global executive and lawyer and CEO of Social Emergence Corporation. “Frankly, I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled this off in the systematic, yet ambitious way she is going about it. I’m excited for the cutting-edge educational and career opportunities that the Center under her leadership will offer to Nebraska students.”

Elliott said getting advice from these top leaders is critical to the success of the Center.

“Our Advisory Council includes some of the most creative and award-winning leaders in the emerging media arts, and it’s invaluable to receive their feedback, advice and network connections,” Elliott said.

While in Los Angeles, the Carson Center also hosted an alumni event for the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

To view more photos from the trip, visit