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PAC App Aims To Connect Arts Community To Events And Shows

Sports fans have likely familiarized themselves with the easy-to-navigate calendars within each sport, as well as the composite schedule. But no such calendar system exists for students and community members interested in performances or showcases put on by Penn State students. Penn State’s Performing Arts Council (PAC) is hoping to fix that.

PAC hopes to provide a more efficient experience for students, faculty, and community members looking to capitalize on the entertainment offered on campus with its newest project, the Arts App initiative.

The PSU PAC Events app, which is in its early development stages and is now available free of charge on both Apple and Android projects, is meant to provide one spot for performance arts fans to check out upcoming events.

The idea for the app came from Marissa Works, a music education and public relations double-major and the incoming PAC president, and Anthony Stem, political science major and then-UPUA representative. If students in the hustle and bustle of Penn State life aren’t given a convenient way to access information, they realized, they simply won’t know about whatever may be going on.

On top of that, students in PAC realized that individuals in certain entertainment groups, like a cappella groups, didn’t know about, say, voice performances in the School of Music, and vice versa. Bringing together all of the campus performances for arts groups and audiences would be a pretty big undertaking.

“We spent probably four or five months talking about what we thought it should be,” Works said. “To make it simple, we wanted it to be a calendar that was customizable.”

After reaching a consensus on what both Works and Stem wanted this calendar to look like, they reached out to a professor in the IST department who helped create the app for Arts Fest with questions about what it’d take to complete such a project. That conversation made it clear that they’d need the help of an app programmer.

“Facebook is great, but there is so much information that finding out about concerts or shows is difficult,” Works explained. “With this app, it’s all right here.”

Naturally, Works and Stem were able to reach out to a few Blue Band members pursuing computer science majors. Ryan Mysliwiec and Vince Vella, two seniors with abilities in both the arts and technical computer science, took on the challenge.

Mysliwiec took on more of a consultatory role throughout the process. Having an interest in performance certainly helped, allowing him to understand exactly what someone looking for interesting shows would want. 

“It’s a great thing for people who are looking to be more active in the arts,” Mysliwiec said. “Right now, it’s hard to go onto each organization’s website and look at each calendar.”

Mysliwiec helped Vella generate ideas for the app, operating somewhere between the creative processes and the technical work. He worked hard to help come up with ways to design an app that was easy to navigate and enjoyable to use. Mysliwiec even learned a new development language, React, and has a much better understanding of web and app design as a result of his work.

Vella was the primary developer throughout the life of the project and believes this app has the potential to stand at the center of the arts community. Developing an app on its own is certainly no walk in the park, but Vella and Mysliwiec had to be especially cognizant of their audience.

“We took a long time in the decision-making process,” Vella said. “We wanted to make sure that when it kicked off, we had just about everything that we needed to include in it.”

Vella was actually enrolled in IST 411 with David Reitter, a class that required rolling out a concept that filled some market need. Vella completed the class requirement before developing the app, but this app was his “cherry on top” of this particular course. The PSU PAC Events app is Vella’s first app, and will certainly provide a nice launching point for his professional career.

The app has a number of impressive features to check out. Users sign in through Facebook into an interface that is highly customizable and allows for bookmarking as well as, of course, an impressive calendar display.

The group working on this app has learned a lot about what’s feasible and the timeline for an undertaking such as this. From building ways to grab information to the web to creating a framework for allowing the future of PAC to update the app, there was a lot of work to be done and a lot that needed to be tested.

You can check out the app on the App Store and it is also available for download on Android. The app is still in early development phases, as some bugs can be expected, but users are highly encouraged to download it now.

About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a junior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected]

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