Artist Micro-commissions – “The Fruits of our Culture” by Nancy

To support local artists and designers during COVID-19, the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room created the Micro-Commissions Project. We invited eight CMU students and local Pittsburgh artists to create artworks to be displayed within the room and on a new digital projection installation on the glass wall near the front of the room. Artists were inspired by our themes of language, culture, identity, and personal stories. Each artist had the freedom to choose any medium.

“The Fruits of our Culture” by Nancy Zuo

Today, we would like to introduce “The Fruits of our Culture” by Nancy Zuo. Nancy was inspired by her mom’s backyard, “We have dozens of different types of fruit trees and my mom’s biggest hobby is gardening. Recently, my mom got into cross-breeding dragonfruit plants and I thought this would be a good metaphor to how cultures blend together.”

Nancy’s artwork is was created using Procreate.

“Inspired by my backyard, I decided to represent culture as a field of different fruit trees. Like fruit trees, culture can easily be cross bred (American-born Chinese, Korea, Japanese, etc) and grows over time. These cultures are rooted with the same values that extend deep into time. Like describing the taste of a fruit, it may be hard to understand the culture of another country until one immerses themself in it. The shadows behind the lamp symbolize Plato’s allegory of the cave, and VR represents the ability to branch out and explore other cultures without falling at the trap of society’s perception of racism.”

About the Artist

You can find more of Nancy’s works on

Artist Micro-commissions – “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Jennifer

To support local artists and designers during COVID-19, the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room created the Micro-Commissions Project. We invited eight CMU students and local Pittsburgh artists to create artworks to be displayed within the room and on a new digital projection installation on the glass wall near the front of the room. Artists were inspired by our themes of language, culture, identity, and personal stories. Each artist had the freedom to choose any medium.

“How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Jennifer Shin

Today, we would like to introduce “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Jennifer Shin.” This is a manifestation of her bilingual experience. “As a bilingual, I go through translation and hindrance whenever I speak my second language. Being overly wary and insecure of the accents or code-switching, I constantly have to re-establish my linguistic identity in this country. In that struggle, I was particularly inspired by the unapologetic kinship with languages and identity that Gloria Anzaldúa advocates in her essay, “How to tame a wild tongue.” This drawing is a process of resolving the relationship between insecure identity and language.”
Jennifer’s artwork is a graphite drawing on Stonehenge paper
“Similar to my experience with language, the drawing has been translated through different medium. I used found images from 1990s American woodwork magazine and study abroad brochures to create a photo collage, which was then transferred into a graphite drawing. Borrowing the title from Anzaldúa’s essay, I examine what it is to be bilingual and insecure.”

About the Artist

You can find more of Jennifer’s work on Instagram @Downy__22 and

Artist Micro-commissions – “Reflections” by Langston

To support local artists and designers during COVID-19, the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room created the Micro-Commissions Project. We invited eight CMU students and local Pittsburgh artists to create artworks to be displayed within the room and on a new digital projection installation on the glass wall near the front of the room. Artists were inspired by our themes of language, culture, identity, and personal stories. Each artist had the freedom to choose any medium.

“Reflections” by Langston Wells.

To start this series, we would like to introduce “Reflections” by Langston Wells. Langston was inspired by “… recent and past conversations with friends of mine from different cultural upbringings.”
Before coming to CMU, I had very little exposure to different cultures, backgrounds, traditions, and languages. Upon arrival I realized just how rich and beautiful the languages and cultures of my new college friends are, but also the emotional and mental struggles that accompany leaving or re-entering a culture that one hasn’t been part of for so long, especially when one hasn’t been raised to know the language of their ancestry. For my project, I’m create a series of illustrations that details small stories compiled through interviews with my friends that come from varied and unique cultural backgrounds around this topic of culture, upbringing, and language.”
“The goal is to offer solidarity to students and visitors through pieces that celebrate the beautiful (and sometimes not-so-beautiful) overlap of culture, upbringing, and language, to show that they are not alone in their feelings and thoughts and so that they can feel comfortable discussing these own issues with their own friends, families, and co-workers.”
Langston’s digital artworks were created in Illustrator and After Effects, following hand drawn sketches.

About the Artist

You can find more of Langston’s work at

Global Languages & Cultures Room – Artist Micro-commissions – Launching our series.

To support local artists and designers during COVID-19, the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room created the Micro-Commissions project. We invited eight talented CMU students and local Pittsburgh artists to create artworks to be displayed within the room and on a new digital projection installation on the glass wall near the front of the room. Artists were inspired by our themes of language, culture, identity, and personal stories. Each artist had the freedom to choose any medium.
In this series, we should like to introduce each of the eight artworks and the amazing artists behind them on our blog and social media. Our series will start this Wednesday, July 15th.  Stay tuned to see all 8 artworks and meet the wonderful artists behind each piece!
Throughout the series we invite you to comment and share the work in your feeds and channels, to help us to spread our message and help to introduce new people to our work. We’ll be using #KennerKreatives and #GlobalLanguages&CulturesRoom hashtags, so keep a look out for new work coming soon.

Reflection: Chinese Calligraphy Final Presentation

My name is Yuxi! I am a sophomore business undergrad and I’ve been working at the Askwith Kenner Room since my freshman fall. It’s been a great experience being able to learn about VR, meeting Modern Language professors, and participate in fun events. In this post, I will be highlighting one of my favorite Askwith Kenner Room events that I have participated in – The Chinese Calligraphy Final Presentation!

Chinese Calligraphy Final Presentations

Chinese Calligraphy is an infamous class on campus among students across all majors. It’s known to be fun and requires no knowledge of the Chinese language. As a Chinese-American and a board member of the Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture organization on campus, I have always wanted to take the class so it was a great opportunity to be able to see the students’ final works in the Askwith Kenner room.
Previously, the classes visited Askwith Kenner Room to use Tilt Brush by Google (a VR painting program) as well as a traditional bamboo brush set to practice Chinese. I was able to see the students’ progress and I was extremely impressed by all the students’ final works. Many students had no knowledge of the Chinese language yet their calligraphy pieces were just as good as professional calligraphers. I am inspired by their projects and I would love to take the course in the future as well!
3 Piece Chinese Calligraphy Brush Set - Prestigify
A traditional Chinese calligraphy brush set

Spring 2020 – Covid-19 Update

With the health and safety of our community as our top priority
The Askwith Kenner Global Languages & Cultures Room will remain closed for an extended period. In addition to safeguarding the health and well-being of our team, our students and visitors, we take seriously a responsibility we share in our institution to help slow the spread of the virus. Our room helps us all to consider language, identity and culture. At this time we encourage all to stay safe and look after one another. We hope to be able to show our support to our community with a number of upcoming remote online projects, including learning, artists projects and new writing.
Please keep an eye out on this blog and our Instagram channel for further information.

Diwali – Festival of Light

We celebrated Diwali by transforming the room, from classroom and lab, to a place where we could come together, meet people and travel using virtual reality, across the world.
Friday afforded the opportunity to showcase work from across the year, welcoming new visitors and updating friends on the experiences, projects and outcomes that have we have engaged with in the Global Languages & Cultures Room. Guests enjoyed authentic Indian cuisine from local restaurant Choolah, danced to music from DJ Stephanie Tsong and moved through a series of VR experiences.
Thank you to those that attended and supported the event. We couldn’t have done this without you. Firstly to Shirley Saldamarco and John Dessler from the ETC who transformed our room with a galaxy of lights and projections. Our student workers Yuxi and Alivia who guided guests and helped them with headsets and experiences. To the Modern Languages Dept’s Jaycie King who provides support for invites, food and much more. So many people chipped in and helped out. Truly a team effort.
Throughout the year we have hosted events to celebrate the room, but with Diwali, we reached higher, a much more ambitious project that we hope to replicate in the Spring 2020, with further support from the ETC.
If you want to find out more about our events, then sign up to our newsletter and follow us on twitter and Instagram. As one guest commented. “This is a room of marvels…truly transforming the way we see the world.” See you next time.

Memories of moments celebrated together. Moments that have been attached in my heart, forever. Make me Miss You even more this Diwali. Hope this Diwali brings in Good Fortune & Abounding Happiness for you!


Join us for Diwali

Diwali Header
This semester we’re celebrating Diwali and we want to invite you to the Global Languages & Cultures Room for an afternoon of music and light. We’re working the ETC – Entertainment Technology Center to transform the room, with a dazzling light show.

We want to introduce the room to new visitors, open up our installations and VR experiences, bring the world to CMU. This event will invite you into a discussion about the room, so that you can help us create engaging content, talk about ways you’d like to interface with us as we welcome your ideas and suggestions.

Music will be provided by DJ Formosa – Stephanie Tsong who performs regularly at Jellyfish and throughout Pittsburgh.

Stay tuned for more info closer to the day, the first part of the event is by invitation only, but as a blog reader you can get in touch using the contact form to let us know if you would like to attend. Just enter the code LIGHT19 to receive an invite.

Following our exclusive event, the doors will be open between 5-7pm for all visitors. Please spread the word and look forward to seeing you!

Google VR to Connect to Home

Homesickness can be a problem among people in a new area, particularly if they have stayed in their previous home for an extended period of time. This issue has been seen among college students, especially among freshman and international students, since many are leaving their mother location for the very first time.

Solutions such as calling home frequently or video chatting a loved one have been excellent ways of helping college students cope with their homesickness, but how can we help students experience even less feelings of homesickness? The solution would be to make the current location feel homely, but that task is much easier said than done.

With Virtual reality though, this problem could be addressed. Google VR allows people to virtually travel and explore many different areas, from famous cities like Paris all the way to your very own home. By exploring regions close to home, it is hoped that students can experience their original home while physically being in their new location. Ultimately, the goal of this virtual reality experience is not only to just help students cope with homesickness, but also help them transition onto a new stage of life where they can learn to embrace their new home.

Play the Knave

Today, the Askwith Kenner Global Languages & Cultural Room has added a new experience for an aspirant actor/actress like you! The new feature is called “Play the Knave”, which enables you to act out drama scenes on the devices. You are able to act out famous scenes from dramas and masterpieces of Shakespeare through an interactive device called “Kinect”. It will update your gestures to the computer screen, where your chosen avatar imitates your movements, on the stage of your choice. There are a variety of plays you can choose from to perform. Once you select genre “tragedy, comedy, or history,” you can further customize on the number of players and the background music. Too bored to play the entire act? The good news is, an abridged version is also available. Furthermore, you can also write your own scripts and play out your works, accomplishing your childhood dream of becoming a director. To get used to the game, the program provides “warm up” before each play, and the player is also able to adjust the rapidity of the speeches. The “Play the Knave” is absolutely a fun game to try out if you are interested in classic theaters, English literature, and have a passion for dramas.

Cultivating Empathy: Reflecting on Culture through Conversation and VR

Students in the Arab Student Organisation (ASO) and Modern Languages Student Advisory Council (MLSAC) were able to sample experiences in the Global Languages and Cultures Room and discuss the opportunity to use immersive technologies to support learning and research. For many of these students this was the first time that they were able to experience VR and worked through a series of applications, including Google Earth VR, Documentaries on Within, including “Clouds over Sidra” and even new experiences created for the room from the Multicultural Pittsburgh Course (more to follow). The group reflected on the depth of experience and the richness of the content. For many the session challenged preconceptions around VR as a gaming technology, whilst recognizing that many of the game mechanics inherent in developing content could be identified in non-game content, such as artist installation, documentary or tool. The group expressed a desire to return to the room and work through more experiences, they recognized that there were many, many experiences on offer, and that familiarity and confidence with the technology would support a critical approach to content viewing. We look forward to welcoming the two groups in the future.

Experiencing the journey

We wanted to share an email we received from Marissa Bongo, a high school teacher in NY.  Ms. Bongo teaches a History of the Holocaust course at Ballston Spa HS in Ballston Spa, NY.  They recently installed a virtual reality lab equipped with an HTC vive and included “Journey Through the Camps”, created in collaboration with Classrooms without Borders and Stitchbridge.
I wanted to touch base after having used your VR program to give you some feedback. The students LOVED it. They thought it was incredibly eye opening and most came back from the experience almost (or actually) in tears. I have used it with both my 10th graders and my students in my History of the Holocaust class last semester, and one of my colleagues will be opening it up to her AP World History students, as well.

Marissa Bongo
Ballston Spa HS filmed some of the students experiencing the journey and also interviewed them afterwards.

Shifting Perspectives on Virtual Reality

My name is Meeti, and I am a student worker at the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room. I am a second-year student in the Public Policy and Management MS program, and I am interested in improving public wellness. My first experience with virtual reality (VR) was at the Global Languages and Cultures Room. Before I tried VR, I assumed that it wouldn’t differ much from video and, as a new invention, it would have limited societal influence; I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

During my introduction I tested both games and videos, and I was quickly drawn to the documentaries. Because VR places viewers in the middle of the action, the documentaries are more enjoyable and the educational material is more impactful, than in video. Viewers are exposed to minute details without distraction, making VR a powerful tool for sharing information.

For example, I was always curious about the palm oil industry, but I didn’t quite understand the dilemma until I experienced The Curse of Palm Oil. Here, I was welcomed into the Orang Asli community of Malaysia. I stood with them on the edge of the forest and experience the habitat devastation. Not only was the message of the documentary more poignant, but I also gained a deeper appreciation of my international neighbors, their way of life, and their local environment.

The Curse of Palm Oil
Such documentaries inspired me to utilize this technology to spread awareness on physically distant issues, and I figured there was no better place to start than right here on campus. The Global Languages and Cultures Room is in a prime location between business and policy students, and its open accessibility of VR has the potential to enhance social change.

Two avenues of interest for me are environmentalism and mindfulness. I am planning on hosting an Earth Day event in April to share VR experiences that educate the viewer on environmental topics. I also hope to use VR mindfulness experiences to invite our community draw on the benefits of technology and well being.

Chinese Calligraphy in Google Tilt Brush

Students in Chinese Calligraphy experiment and play with Tilt Brush
The Global Languages & Cultures Room was pleased to welcome students enrolled on 82-137 Chinese Calligraphy to attend a session that included the opportunity to paint and draw in a virtual world using 3D tools. Students used two apps, Tilt Brush by Google and Paint VR both could be used on Oculus Rift, with Tilt Brush most effective with the HTC Vive.
Displaying the immersive space on the screens in the Global Languages & Cultures Room
The students did not take long to familiarize themselves with the menus, finding tools and features. Initially all cycled through the many brushes, and once they were comfortable with the space, began mark making and playing with shapes. Throughout the students enjoyed the possibilities, giving positive feedback, laughing and playing. As they grew in confidence they began to make brush strokes, play with line and start to create characters and symbols.
Facilitating use of the resources in the Global Languages & Cultures Room
The class will revisit and final outcomes for the course will be exhibited in the Global Languages & Cultures Room.

Personalized experiences in Developing Nations

Educator Sophie Le Blanc invited her class on The Politics of Developing Nations to the Global Languages & Cultures Room to use the technology.
Still from “Clouds over Sidra” from UNVR
I used the Global Languages & Cultures Room to show students the reality of a refugee camp through the VR “Clouds over Sidra”. Watching a video in class would not have given everyone an individualized experience. The VR really let the student get closer to the main character and experience her life in a refugee camp. I prepared specific questions on the video so students’ attention could be guided before even starting the video and we all debriefed together so their individualized experience could be shared together. At the semester debrief, students suggested that I should add more VR experiences in future iterations of the class, as it really helped them understand the reality of refugee camps and thought it would put a clearer picture of life in developing nations. Overall, it was an awesome experience! ” Sophie Le Blanc – Adjunct Instructor, Institute for Politics and Strategy