IMMERSION 5.0: VR Creation Lab

IMMERSION 5.0: VR Creation Lab, a 3-week virtual reality creation residency program from July 12- Aug. 2,2023 at Jengo’s Playhouse, and an invitation for artists to engage the racial history of America within the context of a southern city: Wilmington, North Carolina. Bringing multiple meanings of immersion together, this residency is an opportunity to put critical thinking into practice through immersive media projects. Through this residency, artists will learn about Wilmington’s racial history and learn to see how it shapes the present, whilst becoming acquainted with the growing field of virtual reality (VR) and developing and executing an immersive media project.

Building on the belief that meaningful work is born out of a deep sensitivity for the context from which it emerges, we will immerse ourselves on every level. We will build group rapport through collective experiences, embodied workshops, intimate collaboration and co-mentorship of creative processes. We will engage the history of Wilmington through curated film screenings, local tours, conversations and readings, allowing our research to inform our projects and process. The tools of virtual reality have created a new space of exploration for the vanguard of immersive media and performance. The IMMERSION program asks: How do we root our virtual realities within the political and social realities from which they emerge? How do we resist the escapist trends of immersive media and deepen our relationship to place and to each other through immersion? What layers of historical, cultural, colonial, oppressive, personal and social fabrics map onto our movements in a space? How might we engage these realities actually, and virtually? As technologies evolve, how do artists adapt?

The first week of the session will be focused on group and site introductions, local tours, as well as developing technical familiarity with the 360 cameras,  technology and gear. In the second week, we will create immersive media projects with our co-residents as collaborators and crew. The third week will be devoted to learning and beginning post production, culminating in a work-in-progress sharing of projects at the end of the residency.

A collaboration between Cucalorus Film Foundation and The School of Making Thinking.

Pieces created at the residency will exhibit at the VR Salon at the Cucalorus Festival, November 15-19, 2023. Residents will be encouraged to return to Wilmington for the festival to participate as exhibiting artists. 




Akeema-Zane is an artist and researcher whose practice centers the literary, music, cinematic and performance traditions. The artist has been a student, fellow and performer at Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Fellowship, Groundation Grenada, Cave Canem, The Maysles Documentary Center, Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, UnionDocs, Recess and The School of Making Thinking. At The School of Making Thinking, the artist was a part of the 2018 Immersion 2.0 and has been a facilitator for Immersion 4.0 and excited for Immersion 5.0. Akeema-Zane currently serves on the board of directors of The School of Making Thinking and Cucalorus Film Foundation.

Clay Scofield


A interdisciplinary artist and writer who works between and across media. They create long-form experiments in self-making and becoming as play. Documents, from field notes to various findings as multimedia gesture toward simultaneous rupture and suture of meaning, are presented through publication, performance, and exhibition. They hold an MFA in Digital Art from Indiana University and a BA from Vanderbilt University, and recently completed an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. They serve on the board of directors of the School of Making Thinking.

brandon king


Dj/sound-selector, multidisciplinary artist, from the Atlantic Ocean by way of Hampton Roads VA, who creates installations exploring African Diasporic identities, honoring his ancestors’ stories through archival and found materials, sound collages, painting, film, and other forms. brandon is a founding member of Cooperation Jackson, a cooperative network in Jackson Mississippi and currently serves as Executive of Resonate Coop, an international music streaming platform cooperative that is open source. his work has been exhibited at the Virginia Contemporary Art Museum, the Brecht Forum, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, the Imari Obadele Community Production Center, and Kuwasi Balagoon Center for Economic Democracy and Sustainable Development, as well as at the Cucalorus Film Festival.  he is is also a member of the NYC based artist collective PTP (Purple Tape Pedigree) and is currently an MFA candidate at Queens College focusing on Social Practice and Installation.

McLean Fahnestock


A media artist and educator who seeks out footage, images, and items that expand our understanding of place, real and unreal, and question how desire shapes the landscape. Her work has been exhibited at institutions such as the Aurora Picture Show and Menil Collection, Houston, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Technisches Museum Wien, Vienna, Austria, The British Library, London, MOCA Hiroshima, Japan, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She was an IMMERSION 4.0 resident and is excited to be returning as a co-facilitator for IMMERSION 5.0.


Bonnie Jones


A Korean-American improvising musician, poet, and performer working with electronic sound and text. She performs solo and in numerous collaborative music, film, and visual art projects. Bonnie was a founding member of the Transmodern Festival and CHELA Gallery and a member of the High Zero Festival collective. In 2010, along with Suzanne Thorpe she co-founded TECHNE,, an organization that develops anti-racist, feminist workshops that center on technology-focused art making, improvisation, and community collaboration. Born in South Korea she was raised on a dairy farm in New Jersey (Lenapehoking) – spent her formative years in Baltimore  (Susquehannock, Piscataway) and is currently pursuing a PhD in Music and Multimedia Composition in Providence, RI (Narragansett).

Kristin McWharter


She uses performance and play to interrogate the relationship between competition and intimacy. Her software installations and performative objects incorporate experimental technologies and playful interaction to speculate upon new social behaviors. Inspired by 20th century sports, collective decision making, and systems of play, her work blurs the boundaries of intimacy and hype to challenge the relationships of affection and competitive drive. Her work has exhibited with The Hammer Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center, Ars Electronica, Museo Altillo Beni, and FILE Festival among others. McWharter received her MFA in Design Media Arts and is currently Assistant Professor in Art & Technology Studies at SAIC.

C. Meranda Flachs-Surmanek


Born in Lenapehoking (Queens, NY), C. Meranda Flachs-Surmanek is a theater maker and urban planner. Their current home is Yesan (Southwest Virginia), where they found love in a cohousing community. Meranda invites people into imaginative spaces that can make the seemingly impossible possible by creating room for people to connect across the lines that divide us. They consult on projects at the intersection of art, public health, and community development, and make living history plays. Meranda is a researcher with the Center for Arts in Medicine and collaborates with Ping Chong + Company. They are a recent NEW AESTHETICS Fellow (Theatre Replacement), Visiting Fellow at Skidmore College’s MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute, and Instructor (Virginia Tech Center for Communicating Science). Meranda’s Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, white diasporan body, queer identity, and working-class upbringing are important to their aesthetic process, and guide their approach to organizing. @merandissime

Jaimes Mayhew


Grounded in research, conversation and humor, Jaimes Mayhew employs drawing tools, lenses, and digital realities to craft images that queer, queery and trans relationships between beings (human or otherwise), their communities and their environments. By creating visual languages that speculate and articulate the natures and nuances of a trans lend, Jaimes hopes to inspire people (trans or otherwise) to expand the ways they see the world. Jaimes’ work has been shown nationally and internationally, including at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 808 Gallery (Boston), George Mason University (Fairfax, VA), Hoffmannsgallerí (Reykjavík, Iceland). He has received several grants and fellowships including The Fulbright Commission, Maryland State Arts Council, The Saul Zaentz Fund, and the Robert W Deutsch Foundation.Reviews of their work include Hyperallergic, Art Papers, The Creators Project, and Frontiers Journal. In the Fall of 2021, a book chapter of Mayhew’s was published in “Out of Place: Artists Pedagogy and Practice”. Jaimes is a Lecturer at University of Vermont and serves on the Board of Directors of The School of Making Thinking.

Carrie Hawks


Carrie Hawks confronts self-imposed and external assumptions about identity in order to promote healing, particularly in relation to Blackness, gender, and queer sexuality. They work in animation, drawing, collage, sculpture, and performance, often incorporating humor. Their film black enuf* was nominated for a New York Emmy, screened at over 40 festivals, and made its broadcast debut on World Channel. They were selected for fellowships with the Jerome Hill Foundation, the Leslie Lohman Museum, and Brown Girls Doc Mafia. They have curated programs for the Ann Arbor Film Festival and ASIFA-East and are an Assistant Professor at Parsons, The New School.

Kiley Brandt


Kiley Brandt (MFA) is a video artist from North Carolina. In her work, Brandt attempts to inspire empathy through sound, poetry and immersive installation to better communicate dissatisfaction with the current political climate and the uncertain displacement many feel within it. Her research areas include diaspora, adoption, immigration and Mexican/American Border politics. She was a 2019 New Media Caucus: Border Control Presenter in Ann Arbor, Michigan and currently teaches as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art- Digital Media at Clemson University, SC.

Ivy Nicole-Jonét


As an artist creating for the Afrofuture, she seeks to connect her  art to the roots of her heritage while exploring ways in which Blackness is illustrated through immersive technologies. They explore the joys, collective nostalgia, and memories of Black life. Being an installation artist, AR/VR artist, and documentarian, they use varying immersive multimedia technologies in installations to create a space of honor, and freedom of exploration. They express their matriarchal, Afro-Carolinian, DC-born and raised, story and identity in ways that reach beyond the traditional use of filmmaking and documentary, bringing forth a story that resonates with other Black folx.

Courtney Symone Staton


Courtney Symone Staton, from Greenville, North Carolina, is a Black organizer, poet, and filmmaker dedicated to creating space for collective liberation through the sharing of stories. Her debut documentary, a participatory short Silence Sam, about the systemic silencing of activism during a movement to remove a Confederate monument from campus, premiered at BlackStar Film Festival in 2019, and since then has had impact-driven screenings across the South. Courtney believes deeply in reclaiming Black history, and uplifting stories of Black changemakers whose legacy we live in in the present, creating and leading Youth FX’s History Reclamation Project, a program reconnecting local high school students to Albany’s legacy of activism through participatory documentary filmmaking. A NeXt Doc fellow and impact producer of “The Neutral Ground,” Courtney works to drive viewers past the point of empathy to the point of healing and action.