Virtual Art Initiative maintains four sims in Second Life: Caerleon Isle, an artists collaborative space; New Caerleon, an experimental university; and Caerleon Art Collective and Caerleon Art Collective 2, both artists colonies.
Thirty-five artists, musicians, writers, programmers, and scholars reside on the four sims, engaging in both individual and collaborative work. Two of our artists are working on the sims through major grant funding, one receiving a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the other from the Australia Council for the Arts. The Caerleon sims include an active art school where accomplished Second Life artists lecture on theory and give practical workshops in technique, a science fiction museum that pursues the connection between that genre of literature and the development of virtual worlds, and philosophy classes and installations that reflect about the relationship between reality and simulation. The sims have hosted in-world readings, lectures, classes, and debates on a wide variety of topics as well as creating cross-world connections with such "real world" events as the first Eduverse Symposium in Amsterdam, February 27, 2008, the Toronto Virtual Art Symposium, March 27 to 29, 2008, and The William Monroe Trotter Institute's celebration of Black History Month at the Harbor Gallery, University of Massachusetts at Boston, February 26, 2009. University courses have been conducted on the Sims for "real world" credit, while new forms of networked education are also being explored there.
The residents of the Caerleon sims are currently involved in an 8 month project of collaborative exploration of the fundamental dimensions that make the art of virtual worlds a unique aesthetic medium. Each of these dimensions - immersion, interaction, ambiguity of identity, environmental fluidity, artificial agency, and globally networked collaboration - is being explored in a collaboration of artists under the direction of a project leader lasting approximately six weeks. The collaborations are being thoroughly documented in images, text, and machinima film, and will generate work that will be exhibited in the "real world" Harbor Gallery at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in April 2010.