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College faculty Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown are co-founders of the festival, which will curate extended reality, or XR, media art, including virtual reality, augmented reality and other forms of immersive media for the 2022 event.

From left, Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat rehearse their piece, “#19,” a two-person, three channel live cinema performance as part of the Process Series’ “19th Amendment Project.” photo by Donn Young.

The Cosmic Rays Film Festival, in collaboration with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Arts Everywhere initiative, has been approved for a $15,000 Grants for Arts Projects: Media Arts award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support Cosmic Rays Digital.

The project is a curated exhibition of extended reality, or XR, media art, including virtual reality, augmented reality and other forms of immersive media that will take place during the 2022 Cosmic Rays Film Festival, originally founded in 2017 in response to the lack of experimental film and media art programming available to audiences in Chapel Hill and the Triangle. Cosmic Rays Digital is among the more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

National Endowment for the Arts is written in white on a black background with the URL in the lower right corner:“This festival has been a labor of love for us these past few years,” said co-founder Sabine Gruffat, associate professor of art, with Bill Brown, associate professor of communication, both in the College of Arts & Sciences. “We are thrilled to receive this award from the NEA and to be able to expand the reach of Cosmic Rays through the exciting world of XR film experiences.” Work will be selected from emerging and established media artists working locally, regionally and internationally with the hope of creating an intentional community where local and international film and digital media artists and audiences can exchange ideas, knowledge and networks, and celebrate artistic excellence in digital media.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as the Cosmic Rays Film Festival re-engage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.

To learn more about the upcoming festival and how to submit, visit or contact Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown at

About the Cosmic Rays Film Festival

Launched in 2017, the Cosmic Rays Film Festival is an annual celebration of non-commercial experimental short films, live-cinema and extended reality (VR, AR) projects that takes place in Chapel Hill. The festival’s mission is to give audiences in the Triangle region and across the Southeastern U.S. access to work that expands our idea of what media art is and what it can be beyond commercial entertainment. Cosmic Rays was founded and is co-directed by Gruffat and Brown.

About Arts Everywhere

Arts Everywhere is a comprehensive initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill to make the arts a fundamental part of the University culture and daily campus life. Built on a model of programming through partnerships, the initiative collaborates with diverse departments, units and organizations to embed creative expression, live arts experiences and arts learning into the Carolina experience of students, faculty, staff and community.


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