This fall, students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications won’t have to find space for photo shoots and interviews. A new digital photography studio and multimedia classroom opened in the Agency, located on the third floor of the Lincoln Children’s Museum, on Aug. 22.
The classroom and studio are supported by a $100,000 gift commitment to the University of Nebraska Foundation from UNL alumnus Phil Perry, CEO of Perry-Reid Properties.
The studio is available to all college majors and students working in the Experience Lab. Launched in 2021, the Experience Lab provides students the opportunity to work with faculty and professionals-in-residence in one of the college’s media outlets or agencies.
“When we launched the Experience Lab, we knew students would need dedicated spaces to practice their skills,” said Shari Veil, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. “The Perry Photo Studio will provide students with room to support their work in photography and videography.”
In the summer of 2021, the college leased 13,000 square feet of space on the third floor of the Lincoln Children’s Museum to support advertising and public relations-focused experience labs, including student-run agencies Jacht and Buoy, and Heartland Webzine, which tells stories of economic and community development.
The new space, dubbed The Agency, includes editing bays for video and photo editing as well as offices and conference rooms for students to work on projects and meet with agency clients. The college also opened an equipment check-out room in The Agency to provide students the opportunity to borrow equipment commonly needed in communication-related professions.
Despite the addition of The Agency to the college’s facilities, the college still didn’t have a dedicated photo studio for photo shoots and video interviews. But the Agency had an underutilized storage area that once housed Christmas decorations for the Lincoln Children’s Museum. The space was in bad shape with low-hanging duct work, concrete floors and chipped paint. Most faculty and staff who toured the space only saw a dirty old storage room, but Veil saw a chance to provide students with a dedicated photography studio.
So, Veil reached out to Perry, a longtime friend of the college. Although Perry’s career was in real estate development, he has a lifelong passion for photography and has developed his own talent after taking photographs around the world. Perry is also the benefactor of the college’s Perry Photojournalism Challenge, which provides students the opportunity to create photojournalism essays and compete for scholarships.
“I immediately saw Shari’s vision,” Perry said. “And I knew I wanted to be a part of the change she was making to the college.”
With Perry’s support, the college hired Paul Davis Construction to rework the air ducts, install new flooring and update the paint to include three neutral walls and one wall, painted chroma key green, to support virtual backgrounds.
CoJMC Technical Director Jamie Wenz and Assistant Professors of Practice Alan Eno and Shoun Hill secured a backdrop system and lighting to ensure the space is flexible and can support students' work and innovative ideas. To complete their projects, students will use equipment from the checkout room.
But Perry didn’t stop there.
In addition to the photo studio, The Agency had a large unkempt room that was once used for children’s workshops. The brightly colored walls, laminate floor and open ceiling were in disrepair. The space was large but usable. Veil told Perry she hoped eventually to make it into a multimedia classroom, and Perry agreed to fund those renovations, too.
“Hands-on opportunities are invaluable for college students,” Perry said. “Giving students the space they need to experiment and grow is the best way to foster their dreams. I’m honored to be a small part of what the college is trying to build.”
Paul Davis Construction also worked on the classroom space. It installed new flooring, a fresh coat of paint and a creative patchwork of ceiling clouds between open duct work to dampen echoes in the room and prepare it for student learning. The classroom can seat up to 60 students and will hold its first class during the fall 2022 semester.
Without Perry’s support, neither of these spaces would be ready for students this fall. The studio opened for use on Monday, Aug. 22, and will be open to students in the college 24/7 during the academic year. The Perry Multimedia Studio will hold classes this fall including the college’s advertising and public relations capstone courses.