$9M Gift Establishes Institute for Performance and Technology in the Arts
Michael and Eugenia Brin’s Generosity Pushes Fearless Ideas Campaign Total to $1.4 BillionBy Sala Levin ’10 | Photo by JONATHAN HSU
A family with multigenerational ties to the university is giving $9 million to its School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) to boldly reimagine the future of education in the performing arts.
Mathematics Professor Emeritus Michael and Eugenia Brin and the Brin Family Foundation are establishing the Maya Brin Institute for New Performance, which will add courses, expand research and fund new teaching positions, undergraduate scholarships, classroom and studio renovations, and instructional technology.
The gift brought the university’s fundraising total for its Fearless Ideas campaign to $1.4 billion, approaching its record $1.5 billion goal by the end of this year.
Leaders in TDPS and the College of Arts and Humanities, where the school is housed, say the institute will advance TDPS’s role as an innovator in design and performance, and prepare graduates to launch careers in emerging media formats such as webcasts, immersive design technology and virtual reality performance.
“We will be at the forefront of applications and modifications of technology and theater,” says the college’s dean, Bonnie Thornton Dill. “We’ll be able to expand our existing work and really become a national leader.”
The Brins, parents of Google co-founder Sergey ’93 and Samuel ’09, previously made several gifts to support the university’s computer science and math departments and Russian and dance programs, the latter two to honor Michael’s late mother, Maya. She emigrated with her family from the Soviet Union in 1979 and taught in UMD’s Russian program for nearly a decade. She also loved the performing arts, a passion she tried to instill in her children and grandchildren by taking them to the ballet and theater, says Michael Brin, who retired from UMD in 2011 after 31 years on the faculty.
The idea of combining the arts and technology inspired this new gift. “I want to ... open opportunities to the students and faculty in interactions between new media and traditional art,” says Brin.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, halting most live performances, theaters and concert venues have sought creative ways to present plays, dances and musical performances on a screen. TDPS’s virtual production this spring of “The Revolutionists,” for example, included sending cast members a lighting kit that faculty and student designers controlled during the performance.
TDPS has long served as a pipeline of talent for the thriving Washington, D.C., theater and dance community, including the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage and Dance Place. The Maya Brin Institute will bolster students’ credentials even further, says Maura Keefe, TDPS director and associate professor of dance performance and scholarship. It will allow the school to propel students to the forefront of the field by focusing on what performance is about: creativity and exploration.
“We’re going to see (the influence of this gift) in every performance,” she says.
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