“Fashion is becoming nerdy,” writer and entrepreneur Angela Cravens Chandler said on Saturday to the audience of engineers, artists, actors, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and musicians filling the MIT Media Lab’s 6th floor conference room for Hacking Arts.
Though Cravens Chandler’s comment was unplanned, the aforementioned belief exists at the core of Hacking Arts, a soon-to-be annual event led by MIT Sloan School of Management’s Entertainment and Media Club dedicated to uniting and inspiring the tech and art communities in Boston. Sloan students and co-creators Catherine Halaby and Kathleen Stetson hope that the event will spur those in the arts and innovation scenes to harness the city’s potential and build an avant-garde creative culture.
“There’s been a new culture emerging that’s essentially tech native, but creative, in the arts and in entertainment,” explained Halaby.
Boston, Halaby and Stetson posit, makes an ideal spot for a grassroots art movement primarily because it has yet to fully be leveraged. The budding music and performance theater and tech startups popping up around and within local universities like MIT and Berklee School of Music made Boston particularly fertile for crossover innovations.
Boston’s art community is less saturated and structured compared to the scenes in competitor cities New York City and San Francisco, meaning there’s space for mobility between immature and more established movements in teach and art, across all sectors.
“Because Boston isn’t either of those places, and is known as being a nerdy place, or student-filled place, and certainly a tech place, why not have it here? It’s nobody’s home turf,” said Stetson. “Especially in Boston, we have a vibrant art and music scene here, and people that are really passionate… I don’t know if those type of people–the techies and artists–get together anywhere, but why not here?”
“This is the perfect place for there to be mutual ground for those two cultures to meld together. This isn’t an arts conference that’s going to feature some room for engineering, or an engineering discussion that’s going to talk about art, but really be a place that spoke for and spoke to those two audiences at the same time,” continued Halaby.
The inaugural event was held this weekend and was structured around three different themes–Inspiration, Ideation and Hack. The Inspiration portion featured five sessions on Saturday focused on music, fashion, performing arts, visual arts and design and film and movies, each of which had its own pair of relevant startup pitches and panel of experts to discuss the future of the respective medium. Thought leaders from the Boston area and beyond, including Jim Lucchese, CEO of The Echo Nest, Ron Ubaldo of Youtube Music, Elizabeth W. Scott, Chief Media & Digital Officer of the Lincoln Center, Elle Schneider of Digital Bolex and Sam Aquillano, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Design Museum Boston, came to speak on the shifting relationships and resulting tensions between artistic expression and an increasingly technologically-driven age.
After listening in on a day’s worth of creatives’ conversations, attendees circled up to do their own idea-storming, which then broke into the typical pitches for the 36-hour hackathon. Come Sunday afternoon, teams took to the stage to present their projects to a panel of judges responsible for assigning five awards: Best Overall Hack, Most Creative, Most Disruptive, Best Little Sun Hack and Best Use of EchoNest’s API.
Check out the winners below: