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Game Innovation Lab receives NEA Arts in Media grant

IMD chair
Tracey Fullerton, chair of the Interactive Media Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (Photo/Steve Cohn)

The Game Innovation Lab in the Interactive Media Division (IMD) at the USC School of Cinematic Arts was one of 78 not-for-profit national, regional, state and local organizations to receive an NEA Arts in Media grant, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) chairman Rocco Landesman announced today.

The lab was recommended for a significant grant to further the development of Walden, A Game, part of the first class of video game projects to be given consideration by the NEA. The 78 Arts in Media grant awards total $3.55 million, supporting the development, production and national distribution of innovative media projects that can be considered works of art.

“This is a historic moment for games as an artistic form,” said Tracy Fullerton, lead designer of Walden and chair of the IMD. “When an organization as prestigious as the NEA chooses to recognize video game designers, working in the field, as artists, it sends a clear message about where the form is in its development.”

Walden, a project directed by Fullerton, simulates the “experiment in living” conducted by Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond in 1845-47. The game allows players to walk in Thoreau’s virtual footsteps, attend to the tasks of living a self-reliant existence, discover the beauty of a virtual landscape, explore the ideas and writings of Thoreau and cultivate their own thoughts and responses to the concepts discovered there through game play.

The Walden team included Fullerton, Kurosh ValaNejad, Todd Furmanski, Luke Peterson, Shaun Kim, Kristy Norindr, Kyla Gorman and Logan Ver Hoef.

“While Americans across the country are experiencing art live and in person every day, NEA research has shown that more than half of American adults also consume the arts via electronic media,” Landesman said. “I am thrilled to announce these Arts in Media grants and look forward to the organizations’ efforts to reach ever-wider audiences and create innovative, new works of art.”

The NEA received 329 eligible applications under the Arts in Media category, requesting more than $36 million in funding. Grant amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000 with an average grant amount of $45,513 and a median of $40,000. The Game Innovation Lab was among the 25 percent that were recommended for funding, a sign of organizational strength and creativity.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for grant support, visit 

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Game Innovation Lab receives NEA Arts in Media grant

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