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Immersive Art & Technology Initiative 2022

support for emerging technology as an art form in order to expand access and diversify the field

Grantee: Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone

Intro to Immersive Media


Partnering Organizations:

Black Public Media
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council


Prior to development of this project, UMEZ canvassed 12 grantee organizations to assess interest in immersive technology. Eight responded positively, mentioning specific interests across a range of aspects such as creative, educational, and project support. UMEZ subsequently got in touch with Lisa Osborne and Leslie Fields-Cruz at Black Public Media (BPM) to collaborate on their programming. BPM distributed information on the workshops to their constituencies, provided video editing services, and served as a host for the seminar recording. Osborne created and delivered an Introduction to Immersive Tech seminar via Zoom on three different dates. Two of the sessions were focused on Upper Manhattan and the NYC area, while the third included state-wide leaders in the electronic media field.

Consulting Artists

UMEZ engaged Lisa Osborne, Director of Emerging Media, Black Public Media, to serve as the instructor for the seminar. Osborne designed an hour-long seminar to provide a crash course for decision-makers at cultural organizations on the rapidly expanding field of immersive technologies. The seminar focused on projections, augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. Examples of each were displayed, and the seminar covered the history of how these technologies were envisioned and defined in popular culture long before they became available. Lisa also prepared a 41-page supporting document, which included six case studies for various forms of immersive media, as well as over 100 linked examples of historical and contemporary examples of the evolution of immersive technology. The link was distributed to the participants in the Zoom chat box.

Lisa Osborne believes that storytelling is a powerful change agent—for individuals, groups, and entire cultures. As Black Public Media’s Director of Emerging Media Initiatives, she introduces independent filmmakers to the storytelling potential of virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and similar technology. Her current priority is increasing Black creative participation in the VR industry. Early in her career, Lisa helped Turner launch its first online magazine, ran while based in Germany and The Netherlands, and supervised productions at the American Film Institute’s incubator, working with ABC, NBC, MTV, ITVS, Cartoon Network, and PBS (Independent Lens, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Design:e2) to create interactive prototypes. After AFI, she worked independently for film and TV clients, plus created and taught a digital marketing class for Carnegie Mellon University. She earned a journalism degree from Northwestern University and has a strong interest in developing family, YA, science fiction, and fantasy content.


Thanks for hosting this conversation and inviting People's Theatre Project to participate! I learned a lot about the future (/past/present) of storytelling with technology and I feel I've got a new interest piqued. -Joshwald Martínez-Peralta, attendee

Key Takeaways

UMEZ has observed a hunger for information and ongoing dialogue in the area of immersive technologies. The expense of creating and presenting an immersive tech project is a major barrier to adoption by cultural organizations whose primary audiences are accustomed to in-person performances, despite the online access opportunities that emerged during the pandemic. Investments by major tech companies rarely filter down to the nonprofit sector. The original intent of UMEZ’s seminars was to direct the seminars to decision-makers; however, that guideline was relaxed to accommodate others who were deeply interested in immersive technology.

Immersive Art & Technology Initiative Grantees