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“The Art of Video Games” Genre Kiosks

Based upon gameplay interaction, in their current exhibit “The Art of Video Games” the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) divided content into four Genres:  Action, Target, Adventure, and Tactics.  This taxonomy pretty much summarizes our Fabrication Unit process on the project.


In July 2011 OEC contracted with SAAM to prototype, then build, twenty Genre Kiosks for the traveling exhibition “The Art of Video Games.”  These brightly colored consoles house audiovisual programs tracing the evolution of video-game art.

After prototype approval in late September 2011, production proceeded apace through the December doldrums to delivery in February 2012. The exhibit opened the following month to record crowds at the Donald W. Reynolds Center (DWRC), where it will remain until a national tour begins in October 2012. 


Collaborating with SAAM Visual Information Specialist David Gleeson, OEC refined the original drawings, distilling a construction package that lent itself to heavy use of our Onsrud CNC Panel Router. Under the tutelage of Adam Bradshaw, project lead fabricator and taskmaster (in the best sense of this term), much of the detailing was crafted by Bassem Shaaban, a gifted summer intern and recent Howard University graduate whom we eventually hired to build the prototype. The job represented our first significant in-house CNC production run of exhibit casework.



Fresh from the Onsrud CNC Panel Router, a Genre Kiosk body bottom awaits assembly. 
Photo Courtesy of SAAM.
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Harry prepares a Duratrans image frame for painting.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Thome.



To build the Kiosks, we moved boldly into unfamiliar territory. After some experimentation with a cold metal finish on the gray Kiosk bodies, OEC opted for a pre-catalyzed waterborne lacquer system, a durable, if finicky, alternative to our traditional acrylic latex paint. Here the assistance of volunteer Bobby McCusker, who is familiar with auto body work in his other life, and Michael Arndt, our capable Department of Veterans Affairs NPWE trainee, was critical. To date we are pleased with the lacquer’s performance.       

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Michael fashions Duratrans image attachment clips.
Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Thome.

Adam sprays the pre-catalyzed lacquer finish.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Thome.

We also were adventurous (for us) in our selection of assembly hardware, deciding, for example, to pair racing latches with routed HDPE locator cones in affixing top to bottom Kiosk body sections.

And the project included some audiovisual electronic assembly, unusual work for OEC.  With guidance in gear selection from an outside contractor, and benefiting from Adam’s US Holocaust Memorial Museum experience, we negotiated this challenge successfully.

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Bobby and David assemble Kiosks.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Thome.


Like most SI exhibit shops, OEC is learning to work efficiently with reduced permanent staff. To compensate on this SAAM project, we depended upon rapid, relentless parts fabrication by the Onsrud CNC Router, the in-house cooperation of our Fabrication and Model Making Units, and (as already noted) beaucoup hours of clever contributions from interns/volunteers. This effort seems to have borne fruit; OEC recently contracted with SAAM to build the Archive Wall for a Nam June Paik exhibit opening at DWRC in December 2012.


The exhibit opens. Photo courtesy of SAAM.

Written by Robert Perantoni
Edited by Rosemary Regan


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