ASU, Mesa celebrate new MIX Center as highlight of partnership

Community welcomed to experience high-tech digital facility during grand opening event

100-foot outdoor movie screen on building in Mesa

Arizona State University’s new Media and Immersive eXperience Center in downtown Mesa was celebrated Friday as a shining example of the partnership between the university and the city.

Mesa Mayor John Giles described how shortly after he became mayor, about eight years ago, he first met with Arizona State University President Michael Crow. He wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that this is an individual and this is an institution that has the same agenda that I do, and that is to serve Mesa and to see Mesa succeed,” Giles said at the ribbon-cutting event Friday evening that was part of a weekend-long grand opening.

Giles listened to Crow’s plans for a new high-technology ASU center that would draw energetic young people and creative faculty to help revitalize downtown.

“Creating a new civic center for our city was a big vision,” Giles told the crowd.

“But what the heck. Here it is.”

Crow said the new ASU @ Mesa City Center complex exists because the people and leadership of Mesa believe in ASU.

“We are here because the people of Mesa and the leadership of the city of Mesa believe in the future of new things, new technologies, new trajectories. They believe in the future of young people,” he said, noting that Mesa is also home of the university's Polytechnic campus.

The MIX Center, capable of producing anything from blockbuster superhero movies to virtual reality video games, is the largest part of Mesa City Center complex, which also includes an outdoor plaza space with a 100-foot movie screen and The Studios, a midcentury building that houses programming and services offered by the J. Orrin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute.

Giles was especially moved by The Studios, which are in the renovated former Mesa Library, where he spent many summer days as a child.

“The Studios will be bursting with entrepreneurs planning their next great adventure,” he said.

“Over the short term and the long term, we’ll see this plaza full of families at community events or watching a movie.

“I can’t wait to be back here celebrating the first application of cutting-edge technology developed in this amazing MIX Center or the sure-to-happen first Academy Award winner that will get their start in the best film school on the planet.”

The MIX Center, which opened to students at the beginning of the fall semester, houses The Sidney Poitier New American Film School's production and post-production programs, plus classes in digital media technology, worldbuilding, experience design and gaming from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

A clip from the Apple documentary “Sidney” was shown at ceremony. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, founding director of The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, noted that over his life, the iconic actor and director talked about the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to tell their stories in film.

“The storytelling of humankind has been around forever, and now we are at a place where technology can help our storytellers excel,” she said.

“The MIX Center is going to allow our students to work with this new technology in a way that’s never been done before to bring their stories to life. We want our students to travel along the road that a story takes, from its inception all the way through to the audiences.”

The MIX Center is meant to be used by everyone in the Mesa community, according to Jake Pinholster, founding director of the MIX Center and executive dean in Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. He described it as “a technologically advanced living room.”

“We have built it to be a space for public discourse, entertainment and cultural amenity, and as a space for education and advancement,” he said.

“It is my profound hope that all members of the Mesa community will see this as their space and that the students at the MIX Center will see themselves as core members of that community.”

The opening celebration continued on Saturday at an all-day “housewarming party” for the community, which featured demonstrations of the technology in the MIX Center, panel discussions, trick-or-treating, games, food trucks, musical performances and a screening of the Pixar movie “Coco” on the giant outdoor screen.

Crow said that ASU @ Mesa City Center is a response to a rapidly changing economy.

“This facility, this design, this technology, these programs, these activities are the best of the best of the best that exist on the planet, sitting right here in downtown Mesa.

“Anything that can be thought about in digital creativity can be done in this building.”

Crow said that the new complex is an example of how Arizona is on an upward trajectory.

“We’re building a new economy — an economy that’s built on creativity,” he said.

“Our hope for this project is that we will have industries clustering in Mesa, have creative enterprises clustering in Mesa and have more educational opportunities in Mesa.”

Top image: The new Media and Immersive eXperience Center in downtown Mesa includes a high-definition, 100-foot outdoor screen. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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