Palo Alto High School is celebrating the opening of its state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar Media Arts Center next weekend with three days of tours, guest speakers and an open house.
From Thursday, Oct. 16, through Saturday, Oct. 18, there will be events to showcase the 23,000-square-foot, two-story building, which is chock full of cutting-edge video, editing, recording and other journalism-related technology. After three years of construction on the building, Paly journalism students and teachers at the start of this school year were finally able to make full use of the center, which houses the school's seven student publications.
The Media Arts Center is the result of the $378 million Strong Schools Bond passed by voters in 2008. The technology housed within the facility -- from 119 brand new Apple desktop computers and 13 LCD television screens to six soundproof interview booths and a high-tech room for Paly's daily broadcast show, InFocus -- was also made possible through the efforts of the Paly Media Arts Boosters, a group formed to provide advisory and financial support for media arts-related projects and initiatives, and a $2.7 million Career Technical Education grant from the state for which former Principal Jackie McEvoy applied.
Former Paly journalism adviser Ellen Austin and current teacher and adviser Paul Kandell pitched the concept of the media arts center to the school board in 2009 after the school bond passed. They started by talking to students about what the journalism facility of their dreams would look like.
"The question was, what is the newsroom-classroom of the future going to look like?" Kandell said.
The resulting vision was of a building that promoted multi-platform publishing, collaboration, innovation, transparency and a sense of community.
And the sense of community is meant to stretch beyond Paly's campus. Longtme journalism adviser Esther Wojcicki and Kandell want the center to be a true community space for public meetings, debates, lectures, film festivals and conferences.
In that vein, the second day of the opening celebration will be a public open house from 5 to 8 p.m. There will be tours of the building as well as food trucks.
"The second day is really for the community, to bring in the community to let them see what they funded," Wojcicki said. "Without them, we would not have the building. They passed the bond, and then the school board supported the whole issue. It really took a huge number of people working together for this building to happen."
An invitation-only event on Thursday will feature Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, David Kelley of Ideo, who now heads Stanford University's d. school; and Shelby Coffey, journalist and trustee of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. All three speakers relate to ideas and concepts featured in the building, from Ideo's design thinking that's incorporated into journalism curriculum to decorative elements inspired by the Newseum, an interactive, journalism-focused museum. Wall Street Journal technology journalist Kara Swisher will moderate the evening.
On the last day, Oct. 18, Paly graduate and journalism student James Franco will return to his alma mater to display an art show called "Yearbook Paintings" and to premiere a long-form music video from his band's new album. Limited tickets are available for purchase to attend the evening.
Wojcicki said the project-based learning model in Paly's journalism and theater programs made a significant impact on Franco's life.
All three days, an unusual video exhibit will be displayed on the center's TV screens: footage from the Global Lives Project, which collects videos from around the world that capture people going about their daily activities. The 24-hour footage is shown in sync with the time zone where it's displayed, so people visiting the center at 6 p.m. Friday might see an Italian, Nicaraguan or Mongolian person at 6 p.m. in his or her country.
Designed to enhance cross-cultural empathy, the project will be available for viewing by all Paly students over a number of weeks. Some of the school's social studies teachers have also incorporated the project into their curricula.
Wojcicki said the Global Lives Project is just one example of the way the Media Arts Center can be used to enhance student learning.
Wojcicki -- who has worked with Paly journalism students since 1984 in a range of facilities, from a corner room in the school's Tower Building with 19 students to a portable with a leaking roof, no air conditioning and 84 students -- sees the Media Arts Center as heralding a new era in journalism education.
"The goal of this grand opening is to show not just Palo Alto but actually the nation that journalism is really the curriculum for the 21st century," she said.
IF YOU'RE GOING
Thursday, Oct. 16
5:30-7 p.m.: Hors d'oeuvres and viewing the Global Lives Project/tours
7-8:30 p.m.: Guest speakers' presentations
Friday, Oct. 17
5-8 p.m.: Community open house; RSVP here.
Saturday, Oct. 18
5-8 p.m.: James Franco art show and film premiere. Tickets are $5 for students (with student ID) and $20 for general admission. Profits will go to support the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Center programs and East San Francisco Bay Area based nonprofit Firehouse Art Co.
To purchase, go to eventbrite.com.