An explosion of colorful confetti, frozen in time and space above downtown Woodstock. A sea-urchin thing sitting on top of a house. A rotating sculpture spinning in the middle of a covered bridge. At last year’s Woodstock Digital Media Festival, you could see these artworks — the only catch being that you had to look through the lens of your smartphone, because they weren’t really there.
The second annual festival, organized by digital-media executive David McGowan, returns this Friday and Saturday at venues all around the picturesque town. The event showcases interactive, digital media from Vermont and beyond, from provocative art exhibits to apps and video games built for social good. It also brings experts in the digital-media field to Vermont to meet with colleagues and the public, according to communications director Mary Hawkins.
The festival is a bit of a grab bag — part conference, part art show. You can go out on an “exploration” — take a digital bird walk aided by an app built by Vermont developer Green Mountain Digital; or tour Woodstock and help make it the first town in the country to have its handicapped accessibility mapped. The festival also features a number of panels that delve into innovative forms of nonfiction storytelling and socially responsible video gaming, and explore how the digital revolution is happening in Vermont (Seven Days online editor Cathy Resmer will moderate that last panel). Digital art will be on display, with a group show ruminating on the “micro” theme at the Artistree Gallery and a farmers-market-type exhibition on the Woodstock town green.
Many of the organizers and participants come from afar, even Europe, but the local tech community is well represented among the participants and exhibitors at the festival. “[The event] draws on national leaders, and there are some of those national leaders located here in Vermont,” Hawkins says. For example, the gaming-for-good panel features representatives from the Champlain College Emergent Media Center and from Tiltfactor, a game research laboratory located across the river at Dartmouth College.
“It’s interesting that a festival like this happens in Vermont,” Hawkins says. “We don’t think of Vermont as a place where digital media is cutting edge, but there are these things going on.”
Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23, in Woodstock. The festival kicks off on Friday night with an art exhibition reception at the Artistree Gallery, 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Most Saturday events are free and open to the public. The Saturday-evening gala at the Billings Farm and Museum is ticketed, and some events are invite-only. Info and preregistration at woodstockdigital.com.