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June 12, 2023

Bendis represents CIA, Interactive Media Lab on global stage

Game Design chair Jared Bendis, left, participates in a panel discussion at the LEAP Tech Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Submitted Photo.

By Elizabeth Wayne

Jared Bendis ’04 is no stranger to innovation, and in February, the Cleveland Institute of Art’s chair of Game Design took his expertise to the LEAP Tech Conference in Saudi Arabia—putting him, CIA and the city of Cleveland on an international stage.

LEAP is an annual event that brings together industry leaders, educators and innovators to focus on cutting-edge technologies and visionary strategies. Its scale is on par with the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas but with a decidedly global audience.

“I made some great connections, both internationally and locally here in the United States. I also got some insight into how to better use virtual reality for storytelling, what isn’t working in the world of augmented reality, and most importantly, some real vindication about the things we already do at CIA,” Bendis says. “There was great interest in my ‘Aesthetics of Virtual Reality’ course and our plans for the Interactive Media Lab.”

Bendis delivered an entire lecture on the Interactive Media Lab (IML), which is scheduled to open in 2025 in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood. It’ll serve as an expansion of CIA’s campus that combines the academic program and an incubator that builds business capacity using augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence within the context of arts and design. It will feature a state-of-the-art AR/VR/AI production studio to be used by students and startups, and it will serve as a hub for artist and designer-driven content, discourse and development.

“The goal of the IML is to have an impact on every student in every department at CIA,” says Bendis, who has been part of the Lab’s evolution since 2019.

Bendis’ involvement at LEAP also included participating in two panel discussions related to the creative economy and education: “Immersive and Effective – Storytelling for Learning” and “Immersive Technology and Next Generation Design.” Doing so was instrumental in cultivating new ideas, not just for the IML and Game Design, but for the College as a whole.

“Some of the connections I made will influence my own art and professional practice, while other connections go beyond my role as professor of Game Design and could be useful for Painting, Illustration, Photography + Video or even at an institutional level,” he says.

Bendis was proud to represent CIA and its students on the world stage. LEAP hosted more than 172,000 visitors, 900 exhibitors, 700 speakers and 500 start-ups from 50 countries. The makeup of the audience was expected to match its inaugural conference in 2022, when 77 percent were from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

“Seeing what other countries are doing with these technologies and what companies are doing in these countries allows us to be more informed and better citizens of the world,” he says. “CIA’s diverse student body and our variety of program offerings create a unique opportunity for our students, our faculty and our community—and it makes people see how the arts not only reflect the world but can also lead to change.”

Now back home, Bendis is excited to share his newfound knowledge and innovative ideas with Cleveland, CIA and his students. “When I introduce myself as being from the Cleveland Institute of Art, I always add, ‘We are a prestigious 140-year-old art and design college in Northeast Ohio. Our students and alumni are already on this world stage.’”

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