Laycock Center at BYU Facilitates Student Collaboration

Contributed By By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 3 June 2014

A behind-the-scenes photo shows a photographer during the filming of the Philharmonic premier orchestra at BYU playing on the Utah Salt Flats at sunrise. For the project, musicians mounted GoPro cameras on their instruments, providing a way for people to see classical music through a new lens.   Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

Article Highlights

  • Special projects produced by the BYU Laycock Center of Creative Collaboration are making headlines and “wowing” people.
  • Working in the Laycock Center has opened the door to job opportunities out of college that students never would have had otherwise.

“A student studying photography learns something from an IT student, who learns something from an advertising student, and you now create a whole new idea of how to present that solution. You not only engage and do your specific skill, but you actually lean on others and help make something you would have never considered before because they are not a part of your world.” —Jeff Sheets, Laycock Center director

Whether it is creating a virtual tour of the entire Brigham Young University campus, creating an interactive guide to accompany visitors to the Sacred Gifts exhibit at the Museum of Art, or making a children’s reading app for the Library of Congress, special projects produced by the BYU Laycock Center of Creative Collaboration are making headlines and “wowing” those who get to experience them.

What started as a grant for special projects in 2003—overseen by BYU faculty in the College of Fine Arts and Communications—the Laycock Center has now become a creative community for students from many different disciplines to collaborate on ideas. Projects were done under the Laycock name for many years, but it was in 2011 that a director for the program was appointed and a physical “home” on campus was created.

Dubbing it as a place for “creative go-getters,” Laycock Center director Jeff Sheets has loved watching students come together to turn ideas into tangible solutions that are having an impact on the BYU community, as well as people throughout the world. Students use their skills to create a concept and then produce and solve specific initiatives.

“The great thing about our creative center is we really are engaging students from all across campus in fascinating projects,” said Brother Sheets. “We are trying our best to provide for students these mentor experiences that are not limited—if they can dream it up, we can do it.”

Creative collaboration

Although it would be easy to miss the Laycock Center while walking the halls in the Harris Fine Arts Center on campus, the black door located in one of the stairwells leads to more than a typical classroom filled with chairs. The words “collaborate,” “create,” “uplift,” and “inspire” greet students at the door before they enter a more casual setting with ideas written on white boards and pictures taped all over the walls. A spiral staircase takes students to a conference room where they are able to discuss ideas around a large table.

Readers to the Rescue app: children’s literacy is dropping across the United States. To help solve this problem, the Laycock Center partnered with the Library of Congress to get children out of devices and into books. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

When the BYU Museum of Art had the chance to host several priceless, original paintings by Frans Schwartz, Carl Bloch, and Heinrich Hofmann, they asked the Laycock Center to develop the event's identity. The Laycock Center hosted designers, filmmakers, writers, developers, advertisers, and faculty to create a truly unique identity for the event, including an innovative iPad app. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

Putting together a special project for the company Vittana, an organization that allows people to loan even small amounts of money to students in developing countries to help them fulfill their dream of an education, the Laycock Center sent small teams to Ghana, Belize, and the Philippines to create a series of mini-documentaries and a TV spot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

When the BYU Museum of Art had the chance to host several priceless, original paintings by Frans Schwartz, Carl Bloch, and Heinrich Hofmann, they went to the Laycock Center to develop the event's identity. The Laycock Center hosted designers, filmmakers, writers, developers, advertisers, and faculty to create a truly unique identity for the event, including an innovative iPad app. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

Putting together a special project for the company Vittana, an organization that allows people to loan even small amounts of money to students in developing countries to help them fulfill their dream of an education, the Laycock Center sent small teams to Ghana, Belize, and the Philippines to create a series of mini-documentaries and a TV spot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheets.

“The premise is to enable students to have leadership experiences in generating creative projects where they are able to demonstrate their individual disciplines and individual skills,” said Brother Sheets. “We want them to collaboratively learn and engage in things that wouldn’t have existed before because they are working in that creative environment.”

Although this collaboration is usually done for school credit, it gives students much more than a few hours toward their graduation. It gives them a real-world working experience—one they would actually find in the workplace. Rather than having a lab where they work with other students in their own major, they work with students from many disciplines to create a final product for actual clients.

“So a student studying photography learns something from an IT student, who learns something from an advertising student, and you now create a whole new idea of how to present that solution,” said Brother Sheets. “You not only engage and do your specific skill, but you actually lean on others and help make something you would have never considered before because they are not a part of your world.”

Greater opportunity

This collaboration has transformed into something much more than just a fun project for students to work on; it has become a training ground for their future employment. For some students, working in the Laycock Center has opened the door to job opportunities out of college that they would have never had otherwise.

“I feel like I got a graduate-degree experience while I was doing my undergraduate degree,” said Robbie Rane, a BYU graduate who now works in the advertising industry. Brother Rane spent a lot of time working on the Readers to the Rescue project—a game adopted by the Library of Congress to encourage young children to read (see Church News, Feb. 23, 2014).

“Working with all of the students from different majors was impressive and surprising,” he said. “It was great to come together to create something much more polished.”

Many of the projects created in the Laycock Center have BYU themes—including a music video for the BYU singing group Vocal Point, a video using GoPro cameras attached to instruments of the musicians in Philharmonic—the premier orchestra at BYU—while they played on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and an award-winning video (made for a contest sponsored by Hyundai) sharing the story of BYU fans around the world.

Although the purpose of the center is focused on the students, the impact of the Laycock Center goes far beyond a few people at BYU. Many of the projects are focused on finding solutions to real-world problems.

One project focused on an organization (similar to the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund) that allows individuals to donate—even small amounts of money—to students in a developing country to help them fulfill their dream of getting an education. For this project, students traveled to Ghana, Belize, and the Philippines to create a series of mini-documentary films for the project.

Impacting the world

Brother Sheets said that more than anything, the purpose of the Laycock Center is to aid in developing the next generation of creative leaders who will influence and inspire the world through a virtuous lens.

In a world where it is increasingly difficult to find “honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy” things, there is a need for people of integrity to be in positions where they can have an impact on the world. The Laycock Center is trying to provide opportunities for students that will give them real-life experiences that will open the door to future opportunities.

“We need to make things that matter,” said Brother Sheets. “For passionate, creative people, there is so much opportunity.”

To see more of the projects created by the Laycock Center, visit their website at thecenter.byu.edu.