The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts is pictured on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Less than five years after a $20 million donation by the Johnny Carson Foundation, the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts is up and running with its first cohort of undergraduate students. 

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts will be officially dedicated on Sunday after a weekend of events celebrating the first year of the program.

The weekend will open with Carson Conversations on Friday, Nov. 15, from 9 a.m to 12:30 p.m., where members of the Carson Center Advisory Board will discuss the role emerging media arts plays in the economy, according to Megan Elliott, director of the center. This event is free and open to the public. The formal dedication of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17. 

Carson Conversations speakers will include Robert Tercek, an innovation expert and creative strategist, and assistant professors Ash Smith and Jesse Fleming. They will discuss how business relates to emerging media arts. 

Preeta Bansal, a former White House attorney and policy advisor under Barack Obama, will lead a panel at 11:45 a.m. on Friday. At the event, artists from California, to the people from local businesses such as Hudl, will discuss emerging media arts in the economy, according to Elliot. 

Elliott has been part of the planning for the new Carson Center since she joined the Nebraska faculty in January 2017 and said she has seen the progression of the program and center. She believes this program puts Nebraska students at an advantage and is unlike any other program in the Midwest, she said.

“Most programs that exist like this, exist on the graduate level,” Elliott said. “Innovation always happens in the margins and it just so happens that in this country, the margins are in the middle. This is a space where innovation can take place right here in Nebraska.”

According to Elliott, the idea for the program within the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts came about because the team that designed the program wanted to create something that mimicked what Johnny Carson did for television.

“Television is a 20th century medium for 20th century audiences, so they wanted to create something that was 21st century for 21st century audiences,” Elliott said. 

Freshman emerging media arts major Ellie Castro said having a program like this in the Midwest is beneficial to Nebraska, and the interdisciplinary nature of the program creates students that are well-rounded. 

“The Emerging Media Arts program is unique in that it allows students to explore different avenues of interest,” Castro said. “This program is meant to help students find or create a career that is right for them.”

For several members of the advisory board, this weekend will be the first time they have seen the completed center, according to Elliott. Elliott said she hopes the UNL community and the greater Lincoln Community see how this program is creating innovation at UNL throughout this weekend's events. 

“I want people to feel welcome and to be genuinely excited and proud that this is in their community and figure out how to partner with us,” Elliott said. “I think that is what is very exciting about this — we can bring projects and new creative ideas to fruition as we attract our next cohort of students from not just across the state, but across the world.”

This article was modified on Nov. 14 at 12:13 p.m. to correct the spelling of Megan Elliott's name.