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Center links locals, high-tech tools

Laboral allows artists, public to work together

GIJON — In one fell swoop, cozy, quaint Asturias is trying to forge a small but vibrant film, TV and contents industry fit for a high-tech, biz-morphing new world.

Asturias’ leap forward isn’t happening in a vacuum: since 1981, Asturian capital Oviedo has bestowed the prestigious Prince of Asturias awards, which have earned an international name honoring outstanding achievement: Bill Gates, Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar are among honorees.

And now, Gijon’s Laboral City of Culture is as internationally ambitious as the awards.

It opened March 29, housing regional pubcaster RTPA, a theater, a university business center, a training division and an Arts and Industrial Creation Center. Some 4,000 artists, professionals and students pass through its enormous doors every day.

RTPA, which fully launched in December, is Spain’s lowest-budgeted broadcaster, costing just $24 per Asturian per year: 60% of programming — newscasts, reportage — goes out live. Technologically, however, it’s Spain’s most advanced. Designed by France’s Dalet Digital Media Systems and Spain’s Telefonica Servicios Audiovisuales (TSA), its integrated editing system simulcasts TV, radio and Internet content.

Links with more traditional film are being forged. Laboral Arts Center plans classic film cycles in conjunction with the Gijon Festival.

Although the festival has no problem attracting audiences, its big challenge is to maintain auds year-round for its film programming. The imposing, trendy Laboral will add an event feel to onsite screenings. Laboral is also prioritizing short film Internet distribution.

Laboral’s Creation Center houses 150,000-square-feet of halls and corridors, packed with full-wall projections, CGI images and interactive works. Artists work in full view of — and with — the public.

Walking around it, a visitor might not get what’s going on, but they won’t have any doubt that it’s cutting-edge.

It’s a brainchild of vet Spanish contempo arts guru Rosina Gomez-Baeza, former head of Spain’s ARCO Arts Fair. “It’s an ode to Bauhaus, an attempt to bring the West’s hallmark of innovation into the 21st century,” she says.

Germany’s Ars Electronica, which is an internationally recognized platform for digital art and media, will organize workshops at Laboral’s Creation Center.

In one way, Laboral will be absolutely traditional. “Bringing in great designers, filmmakers and theorists, the center has a huge potential for networking,” Gomez-Baeza says.

Many pic producers might not quite understand what’s happening in Laboral.

But they will soon want in on talent coming from it.

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