The Workshop offers tech tools to art students, independent creators

From left: Art foundation majors Rena Bridge and Rachel Keys, and biology major Nadya Cortado work on a multimodal project about Hurricane Dorian for their UNIV class. Photo by Liza Hazelwood.

Quentin Rice, Staff Writer

Some VCU students may be surprised to find out that they have access to 3D printers, Photoshop, Ableton and even telescopes absolutely free of charge. 

The Workshop, in the Cabell Library basement, offers all of this, as well as basic instruction to help students learn to use the hardware and software. 

Opened in the fall of 2015, The Workshop is home to just about any creative equipment an art student or independent creator could want. 

The Workshop is divided into two major parts: The Workshop/Makerspace and the rental service. The Workshop/Makerspace features computers loaded with Adobe creative software and digital audio workstations, in addition to 3D printers, laser cutters and a virtual/augmented reality space. The rental station offers tools such as cameras, microphones, projectors and even video games for up to six days at a time. 

“The thing that sells us, or that makes us different from what we otherwise might have been, is the staff that’s here to help people out,” says head of innovative media Eric Johnson. 

In addition to hosting the creative technology, The Workshop focuses on helping users learn the programs. In order to use some of the spaces and creative technology, students have to go through an orientation. 

“We want to make sure people understand from the get-go,” Johnson said.

The Workshop also has an agreement with LinkedIn that gives every student access to a service called LinkedIn Learning, which offers video tutorials on everything from music production to 3D printing. The Workshop staff is there to get students started with the technology, and LinkedIn Learning is there for those who want to become more proficient on their own.

Photography and arts students aren’t the only ones who can get practical use out of the space. 

“There’s a main area with computer workstations that allow you to do anything from converting old DV tapes or high 8 tapes, VHS into Blu-Ray or digital files,” said junior innovative media assistant Sam Taylor. “You can make your own mixtape, or turn a vinyl into an MP3 file.”

If a student wanted to create a song that sampled an old scratchy vinyl, they could convert the vinyl album and record the song in The Workshop’s recording studio, decked out with microphones and digital audio workstations like Ableton and Logic. Old home video tapes can also be converted into a grainy, nostalgic music video. The entire project could be done in-house, but it doesn’t have to be. 

The university also offers students access to Adobe Creative Cloud, which, for $60 a year or $30 for six months, allows students to continue to work on their projects outside of The Workshop on their personal devices. 

Despite its array of creative technology and potential for artistic expression, The Workshop has still managed to fly under the radar of many VCU students. 

“I think that people are becoming more accustomed to the fact that the space is there,” Taylor said. “But there are times where I hear people say ‘Oh, I wish I could do this thing,’ and I’ll say ‘Do you know what The Workshop is?’” 


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