‘The Luminarians’ showcases the Luminary’s versatility through an interactive show experience

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Boise State’s Center for Visual Arts building is home to a groundbreaking piece of technology available to all students, and it’s being showcased through a free performance that’s light-years ahead of its time. 

The Keith and Catherine Stein Luminary is a cutting-edge multimedia exhibition space of near-limitless potential. The room is covered head to toe in ninety feet of interactive touchscreen walls that Lisa Hunt, the Luminary’s interim director, calls “The first of their kind.”

Interfacing with the screens as one would a phone, Lisa shows how to effortlessly magnify high-definition scans of the world’s most revered paintings with pinching, zooming and dragging hand movements. Beautifully crafted landscapes become life-size in an instant, creating a museum experience with immersion like no other.

But the Luminary is far more than just a digitized painting exhibition. Students majoring in Boise State’s interdisciplinary computer science GIMM (Games, Interactive Media, and Mobile) program, Hunt explained, use the Luminary to create “environments that are dynamic for different kinds of purposes” – from visualizers that provide a backdrop for performing musicians, to “escape rooms” as study materials for chemistry students.

The GIMM program is producing new learning and research tools for students and teachers across all disciplines at Boise State, whether you’re studying electrical engineering or linguistics. 

“Now that the skeleton is there,” says Hunt on the chemistry escape room infrastructure built by GIMM majors, “we can do an escape room for nursing.”

Hunt stresses that, regardless of your area of study, the Luminary is a tool that can be used to your advantage to aid you with assignments and even benefit the Boise community.

Hunt gives some examples of the Luminary’s research uses explaining that science professors” utilized the screens to expand molecules they are looking at, to find new ways to interpret them. And an Urban Studies class from the School of Public Service,used the Luminary to create full room scale versions of proposals for architectural renovations to Star, Idaho’s Main Street area, created by students in the city’s junior high. The Luminary has been used to facilitate and influence social change.

So, how does one become acquainted with the Luminary and harness its power? Jada Johnstone, an intern at Boise State’s Theatre, Film and Creative Writing department, aims to invite all students on campus into the Luminary with a one-of-a-kind performance “immersive experience” she calls “The Luminarians.”

The Luminarians is an effort to acclimate audiences with the Luminary by transporting them into an interactive sci-fi adventure complete with a “pre-show”. 

“It’s an invitation to play,” Johnstone explains — a chance to rediscover the world through the eyes of your childhood self.

Madeline Mae Gentry, film student and producer of the event’s “pre-show” video, explains this “invitation to play” is a carefully constructed performance. The Luminary is cast as a computer from “Luminous Labs”, a scientific outpost on another planet that was thrown into the Center for the Visual Arts by a destructive wormhole. The audience must learn to navigate and “talk to” the Luminary, fixing the wormhole’s damage before it’s too late.

Student actors Aneisha Morishita and Mason Semmler play the role of lab assistants that guide the audience from a themed pre show room to the Luminary space itself in a simultaneous showcase of Boise State’s theatre talent and the “kind of mind blowing” wealth of history held in the Luminary. 

All these elements cohere to form a complex performance piece reminiscent of a theme park immersive experience that Johnstone is passionate about bringing to the student body. Johnstone wants audiences to forget themselves for a moment, to “come to the show and just… get lost in a story.”

The Luminarians is a multimedia production piece that remains true to the spirit of the Luminary itself — it’s an open and accessible opportunity available to all students and adults, free of charge. 

The first performances took place at 7 p.m. on March 30 and April 20 in the Center for Visual Arts. Tickets for the final show at the same time and place on April 27 can be reserved at no cost. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., but arriving by 6:45 p.m.  is strongly recommended.

And if you’re interested in harnessing the Luminary’s potential for social and educational transformation, feel free to walk in to its open exhibition hours from 2-5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. You can also reach out to luminary@boisestate.edu to reserve the space or propose a specialized use of its software. 

The Luminary has become more than just an interactive museum — its limits lie at the end of students’ imaginations.

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