EVL and Midwest contribute to book on “Rise of women in the digital arts”

group photo

Back in 2009 Maxine Brown, who heads UIC’s Electronic Visualiza-tion Lab (EVL), received an email from Donna Cox, currently Direc-tor of UIUC’s Advanced Visualiza-tion Lab (AVL) . . .
“We are gathering vital infor-mation for a book on how Mid-western women in the arts con-tributed to the digital revolu-tion… You are a key person be-cause you not only have contrib-uted but you also have a unique historical perspective.”
That email sparked a chain of events that would eventually lead to the publishing of “New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts,” in which Cox is one of three Co-editors along with Ellen Sandor and Janine Fron, all long-time EVL collaborators. The book, containing 356 images and personal narratives from its 22 contributors, goes on sale June 15th.
UIC put its mark on the book with nine of the 22 contributing women (list below) having ties to UIC and the EVL. The reason almost half of the book’s contributors hail from UIC is due to the early emergence of electronic visualization between the Computer Science De-partment and the School of Art & Design (now the School of Art & Art His-tory). The EVL was founded in 1973 by computer sci-ence professor Tom DeFanti and art professor Dan Sandin, who were interested in interdisciplinary collab-oration to advance the development of interactive, real-time, computer-generated imagery.

“In the 70’s there were very few computer science de-partments in the U.S., let alone places where young people interested in both art and technology could go to school,” Brown said. “In fact, in the early days, the ‘electronic visualization’ art pro-gram was more renowned than the computer science program, and at-tracted very technical-savvy artists, including a number of women. In the computer science department, students who had artistic hobbies (e.g., painting, ballet, playing a mu-sical instrument, singing) gravitated to the program.”
The EVL was such an early pioneer in the digital arts that it collaborat-ed not only within UIC, but with others, notably at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and with book co-editors Sandor at (Art)n Laboratory and Cox at the National Center for Supercomputing Appli-cations (NCSA) at UIUC.


“I know most of the women who contributed to the book, many from the time they were either EVL stu-dents or collaborators or both, and am thrilled to see this compendium that recognizes their achievements,” said Brown. “While I don’t consider myself an artist; I am an art appreciator. I was active in the comput-er graphics community since 1976 and met EVL faculty and students, starting in 1977. I recog-nized how special EVL was, so was thrilled when offered a position here in 1986, where I started helping write grant pro-posals and promotional materials. Co-editor Cox told me that I am included in the book because I am an “artist of words and a collector of [computer] art”.
Brown went on to talk about the significance of the book and what readers will learn from it. “While this is not a history book, it certainly provides an historical perspective on the influence of Midwestern women in helping establish digital media as a true art form, and in helping promote its importance, both nationally and globally” she said.