An avant-garde publication that chronicled Baltimore's
thriving arts scene has been reborn
online thanks to a group of students from Johns Hopkins and
the Maryland Institute College of Art
working together in a new cross-institutional class made
possible through an Arts Innovation grant.
The Arts Innovation initiative, launched at Johns
Hopkins in 2006, is designed to help faculty
develop undergraduate interdisciplinary courses —
across departments, divisions or institutions — that
create new educational opportunities in the arts for
Homewood students, and to help undergraduates
create new co-curricular activities in the arts or
significantly increase the impact of existing ones
within both the university and Baltimore communities.
The class was listed in the Johns Hopkins Film
and Media Studies curriculum as Arts, New
Media, Community: Creating an Online Arts Journal for
Baltimore. The class exists at MICA as
Interactive Spaces and is listed under its Interactive
The three-credit course presented the dozen students
who enrolled an unprecedented
opportunity to collaborate with both each other and local
artists to create and produce content for
Radar Redux, a new online journal of arts and culture. The
"beta version" of the site,
www.radarredux.com, went live last week and will be
tweaked throughout the remainder of the
The site gets its name from Radar, a quarterly
pocket-sized journal published by the Greater
Baltimore Cultural Alliance from 2002 to 2005. At its
height, the journal had a circulation of 10,000.
Viewing the Web as the communication tool of the
future, the Greater Baltimore Cultural
Alliance decided that if it were to relaunch Radar, the
Internet was the way to go. The GBCA also
wanted to tap into the talent pool at area universities.
Linda DeLibero, associate director of the
Film and Media
Studies Program, said that when she
and Joan Freedman, director of the Digital Media
Center, first learned of the plans for Radar Redux,
they immediately knew it was a great fit for Johns Hopkins
students. Freedman came up with the idea
of applying for the Arts Innovation grant and, after the
two brainstormed, DeLibero wrote the grant
proposal and worked with Jack Livingston of GBCA, who came
up with the course outline.
Like its predecessor, Radar Redux shows off the
diversity of the local arts scene through
interviews, reviews and features on artists, venues,
festivals and the cast of characters that populate
the city's cultural scene.
The students haven't stopped there, however. The site
also features blogs, photo essays and
audio/video content that give a flavor of the local arts
scene and allow contributors to showcase their
own work. One student documented the drive along I-83 with
a film using a sepia tone technique. A
group plans to podcast an interview with Rebecca Alban
Hoffberger, founder and director of the
American Visionary Art Museum. In the future, the site
could feature live broadcasts.
Livingston, who serves as the class instructor, said
that the goal of the course was to empower
students through classroom and real-life experience to
become "active innovators in the field of
socially engaged interactive media."
He said the content blurs the line of journalism. In
addition to traditional reviews and features,
contributors can post essays and commentaries on culture,
such as the practice of Buddhism.
"We wanted to give the site's visitors a sense of the
arts scene here in a broad sense," said
Livingston, who serves as the site's executive editor.
Livingston said that the site is a good example of the
next generation of Internet use,
commonly referred to as Web 2.0. He said the students were
influenced by Pacifica Network, the
pioneer of listener-sponsored independent radio, and
"Both are democratic and at times messy," he said. "We
are less interested in perfection than in
exploration. What will this medium do? We have chosen the
lens of arts and culture because it is the
area that expresses the community in a vibrant and diverse
The students engage in all aspects of the site's
"They write the articles, design the site and create
and upload all of the content. They have
ownership of these ideas and this presentation. It's been
like a think tank," Livingston said.
The site's design allows the contributors to post
multimedia elements and shape the look of the
"In a sense, it allows them to self-publish and have a
lot of control over how the final product
looks," he said.
The class meets every Wednesday at a lab on the MICA
campus. Livingston describes the
classroom time as an editorial/design meeting where
students can brainstorm ideas and collaborate.
Tom Smith, a Johns Hopkins sophomore majoring in
cognitive science, said he enrolled in the
course to pursue his interests in Web design and
Smith said he likes how the class allows the students
to build upon their strengths and benefit
from the expertise of others. The students were broken into
two teams, editorial and design, and
given a great range of freedom to self-direct.
Smith said that the huge degree of freedom caused a
bit of culture shock in the beginning.
"Most of us were used to coming into class the first
day and [being] given a clear outline of
what is expected of us in terms of homework, papers and
exams," he said. "But in this class we were
asked to roll with the punches and shape the project as we
went along. The experience has been really
nice, especially interacting with the MICA students and
benefiting from their perspectives."
Smith said it's also rewarding to leave a course with
more than just a grade.
"We are creating something from the ground up that
will become a source of information for
the people in Baltimore, hopefully for years to come," he
Livingston said he plans to build on Radar Redux in
the future with other classes and with
previous students who choose to stay on board. The course
has already been extended to the spring,
when a new crop of JHU and MICA students will further shape
the site. The course name at Johns
Hopkins has been changed to Practicum in Online
DeLibero has kept in close contact with Livingston and
the students this semester to check on
"I know they are loving the work and are very excited
about the journal, and the chance to get
out into the community," she said.