At his 8,000-square-foot headquarters in White Plains, Robert Kissner is pursuing a grand strategy to revolutionize digital arts education in Westchester. He’s using the company he founded in 2012, The Digital Arts Experience (DAE), to lure students, professionals, recording artists, and businesses into his iMac-filled Mecca of experiential learning, becoming, in his words, “the hub of the community for all things digital.”
A hub it is. Musicians come and go to take advantage of a fully equipped recording studio. Professional freelancers rent state-of-the-art workstations at DAE’s coworking space. Every now and then, the DAE transforms into a live-performance venue, hosting shows to raise money for charity. And, most important, DAE is a bustling learning center. We counted seven areas of study for adults and businesses, as well as six for kids and teens, ranging from web design to cyber security to animation.
The Scarsdale resident founded the DAE to give youth in Westchester the same hands-on experiential learning that he enjoyed as a kid. Since age 12, Kissner has worked in and around recording studios—at camps, internships, etc.—which led him to Emerson College, where he spent a lot of his time managing sound production for live performances at the college radio station. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media Production and went on to work at a boutique recording studio on Long Island.
“It’s all about exposure,” says Kissner, 27. “Especially at young ages, there are a lot of preconceived notions about what’s involved in creative fields. We’re giving kids the opportunity to work hands-on with as close to professional-grade tools as we can provide.” At DAE, kids might create websites and infomercials from scratch, learning software, production, and design skills in one fell swoop. Then there are programs for adults, which, for example, teach students in four sessions how to make use of the settings on their digital camera.
“For anyone interested in digital, it’s a wonderland,” says Betsy Cadel, who collaborated with Kissner on a Family Services of Westchester fundraiser held at DAE. She was so impressed that she enrolled her son in a three-day video-production course.
With all the services it offers, it’s no wonder DAE enrollment has doubled since the fall. But for Kissner, it’s not just about the numbers. “It was very inspiring for me to think about actually making a difference in tech education.”