Effective for the 2023-2024 academic year, Design Cultures + Creativity (DCC) is pleased and honored to launch a new Creative-in-Residence program and announce its first recipient, Elyas Masrour (Lambda class, UMD '24). This latest initiative is an effort to extend the benefits of the DCC living-learning environment and Honors College community for DCC's most motivated, promising alumni while they continue their studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.
About the program
The DCC Creative-in-Residence (CIR) program is an opportunity for DCC's most accomplished and engaged student leaders to extend their experiences in creative making, original research/publication, and mentoring, while making the most of the resources and community support that DCC has to offer. Designed for DCC alums who have advanced to their junior or senior year of study at the University of Maryland, the CIR program holds space for one student per academic year to pursue an extended creative project of their choosing. They are further invited to:
- Make regular use of DCC's resources—such as faculty contacts, audiovisual equipment, and computing technology—to nurture their craft or skill
- Command a regular presence in DCC facilities, such as the DCC Makerspace and/or Sound Studio
- Work in collaboration with current students
- Provide hands-on skills instruction and mentorship to the DCC community, via workshops and open working hours
- Work alongside DCC's core staff to contribute to the program's overall vision and engagement with students
- Share their work with DCC and the broader campus community in a celebratory showcase at the end of the academic year
Beginning Spring 2024, DCC will solicit competitive applications for the Creative-in-Residence position each spring, in order to select the best candidate for the following academic year. To offer some amendment to the systematic underfunding of artists and creatives around the globe, this role will be compensated as an hourly staff position.
Elyas Masrour (Lambda class, UMD '24) has been a stand-out member of the DCC community since arriving at the university in Fall 2020. Though he is a computer engineering major—who also got to experience the Clark-in-Madrid program!—Elyas has carved out time and energy to stay dedicated to other creative pursuits, especially filmmaking. Even before he arrived at UMD, Elyas had already received awards for his work. His Night of the Crabs triumphed at the IOFF 2020 Student Film Competition, and The Artificial Revolution was featured in the Maryland Filmmakers' Club's Spring 2021 Film Festival. Elyas's latest work, Project Lonelier Nights, won one of DCC's own coveted 2022 Capstone Awards.
About the project
During his 2023-2024 residency, Elyas will be pursuing a project tentatively titled, Project Flatland: An experiment in DCC community-building and interdisciplinary artistic expression.
Project Flatland seeks to adapt Flatland, a novella by Edwin Abbott Abbott written in 1884, into an animated short film. It tells the story of a curious two-dimensional triangle who learns about the forbidden third dimension by way of a benevolent sphere, much to the chagrin of his isolationist community. Drawn to Flatland for "a long time now," Elyas finds "enormous potential for creativity" in the story's narrative and setting, which he interprets as a "wonderful playground of geometry... I envision beautiful and colorful geometric designs for the society of Flatland itself. When the characters make their way into the third dimension, I imagine forests of Mandelbulbs and other bright 3D shapes. I want to pull inspiration from the colorful worlds of Dr. Seuss, the wacky and bold characters of the Muppets, and the rich storytelling found in Pixar films."
Elyas believes that DCC, as a community of creatively-engaged interdisciplinary students, is uniquely positioned to create this animated short film. He specifically envisions working along motivated students with interests/expertise in:
- Geometry and Math
- Music Composition
- Graphic Design
Elyas is further excited by the potential of returning to DCC and facilitating his own intentional approach to creative making, which is heavily indebted to another book, Creativity, Inc., by Ed Katmull. In the book, Katmull, a co-founder of Pixar, explains how the animation giant was founded and how it has fostered a culture of creativity by enlivening key principles and guidelines for managing creative teams and projects, including:
- Embrace Failure
- Foster a Culture of Candor
- Build a Collaborative Environment
- Retain Exceptional Talent
- Focus on the Process, Not Just the
- Embrace Change and Adaptability
- Leadership is about Serving Others
Elyas plans to gather and lead a team of current DCC students to form four key departments: story, design, animation, and sound. Working collaboratively on a regular basis throughout the year in the DCC Makerspace, they will undertake the complex work of adapting Flatland into an animated short film by exploring narrative, aesthetics, character design, world-building, sound design, and dialogue writing. To accomplish this, Elyas envisions transforming the DCC Makerspace into a relaxed, studio-like creative atmosphere each week and empowering his fellow collaborators to "make bold creative choices, come up with ideas, and put them to the test. I want this project to evolve and morph from the ideas [I currently have] to something I can’t even imagine yet."
Elyas's current plans are to devote the Fall 2023 semester to development, creating storyboards, designing and drawing characters, and "building out the world" for the film. In Spring 2024, the team will move forward into production, animation, and recording dialogue.
Elyas, alongside his team, will present Project Flatland and screen the film in a celebratory showcase in April or May 2024.
DCC is thrilled to continue its support of Elyas, an amazing DCC alum and filmmaker, as well as Project Flatland! We cannot imagine a better, more deserving Creative to launch the new DCC CIR program.
Any current DCC students who are interested in working with Elyas and experiencing the inaugural year of the DCC Creative-in-Residence program are invited to an Info Session on Wednesday, September 6, at 7pm in the DCC Makerspace (PFH #0111).