Art Vivas of Immersive Studios is the latest #AVLivingLegends honoree to join Commercial Integrator’s roll call of leaders and greats.
Art Vivas, director of innovation and design at Immersive Studios, is the perfect choice for Commercial Integrator’s #AVLivingLegends series. As our 38th inductee in this distinguished group, Vivas joins fellow industry members whose careers truly distinguish them.
In the interview that follows, CI asks Art Vivas of Immersive Studios about his career trajectory, which includes time with hugely respected firms. Indeed, Vivas’ career brought him to SPL, Ford Audio Video and Cirque du Soliel’s Mystere. With a laugh, he notes that his initials are “AV,” and he was born to do this work! Vivas also emphasizes mentorship — both the support he received and the ongoing support he gives others. In fact, he believes one of his greatest successes is witnessing the success of others.
Read to learn about all that, while also taking in some of Vivas’ favorite anecdotes and stories of his career, as well as the single best piece of advice that he’s ever gotten.
Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry? What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?
Art Vivas: The sound of music and the technology that delivers it has always inspired me. Music captured me at a very early age. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the technology that shaped and reproduced the sound of any voice or instrument. And playing the guitar allowed me to experiment with sounds from various types of genres — from gypsy jazz, to ’80s metal, to world music.
The growth of the AV industry is what has kept me motivated and engaged. At 17, I started my career as a stagehand. (I was in England at the time.) First, I worked small gigs; then, I landed with larger production companies and working large concerts. I got live sound engineering opportunities and mixed FOH and monitors for several shows.
At 22, I graduated from the Conservatory Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) program in Tempe, Ariz. Afterward, I took on a recording engineering role for a couple of recording studios. In the summer of 1989, I moved to Las Vegas. I wanted to be a part of it and design audio/video systems for all those cool themed properties.
I worked for Cirque du Soliel’s Mystere as a monitor engineer and at Caesars Palace as a project manager and entertainment engineer. Then, in 1998, I joined a brand-new team in the integration world and helped open their very first office on the west coast. That was SPL.
Shortly after SPL and my role as director of operations, I moved on and became the first division manager for Ford Audio Video Las Vegas, opening a full services division.
These were the early days.
What keeps me motivated and engaged? The growth I’ve had over the years. And the opportunities that I currently have with Immersive Studios as the director of innovation and design. We have some pretty incredible projects that are in the queue. The growth and possibilities are endless!
Besides, my initials are AV — I was born to do this!
CI: Reflect on your role as both a mentee early in your career and as a mentor later in your career. Who helped shape the trajectory of your professional life, and how have you tried to help shape others’ careers?
Art Vivas: First and foremost, it was my family who helped shape my career. They were always supportive of what I did. They attended my sporting activities and the musical events where I performed or worked. They even stopped by, from time to time, at the odds-and-ends jobs I had. This support allowed me to explore my adventurous spirit and experience many great things, living everywhere from England to Okinawa.
In addition, in each role I’ve had, my immediate manager or leader in that company had an influence on my career.
As a stagehand, if you couldn’t handle the over-under cable wrapping, then this gig wasn’t for you. If you wanted to mix FOH or even monitors, you had better know the basics of gain structure and dynamics. Well, I picked that up, too, learning from those along the way who spent time with me and gave me the chance to use that training and mix.
While I was attending school at CRAS, I also had a job working at an electronics plant called General Semiconductor, a division of the Square D Company. There, I was heavily encouraged by my supervisors to attend their internal management courses. So, I did. The courses included project management and the fundamentals of CPM (critical path method) scheduling, managing JIT (just in time) and Managing a P&L (profit and loss).
I share all that I have learned and experienced with others so I can help them with their immediate challenges or guide them in their careers. It’s one of the greatest gifts of all — passing down experience and knowledge.
CI: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV?
Art Vivas: This would have to be a very recently completed casino project, Santan Mountain Casino in Chandler, Ariz., owned by Gila River Resorts & Casinos. Immersive Studios provided the AV design for the entire property — from the casino and sportsbook to the outdoor venues.
You spend a few years on a project like this and, as it comes closer to the finish line, the anticipation of everyone is high. Everyone can’t wait to have all the systems turned on.
Then, after the soft opening and just a few days before the grand opening, you hear something that chokes you up a bit.
I’m visiting before the grand opening and I ask the CIO, Robin Villarreal, “Robin, what do you think? It’s all done.” Robin responds by saying, “Art, it works as you said it would, and it’s more than amazing. It’s the dream and vision come true.”
You never forget something like that. To work with world-renowned architect Steelman Partners and an outstanding integrator, Immedia of Scottsdale, Ariz., is an experience that I’ll never forget.
CI: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Art Vivas: For me, watching the growth of others I’ve had the privilege to work with is a great accomplishment. When many of us started, we were all so young. We were newbies in this AV world, but we worked through it. We got our hands dirty. We committed to the work, and we did what it took to get it done. And anything I could do to support, guide or help them was a privilege.
Today, many own their own AV businesses or consulting firms; some are now integrators or are retired, as well. I’m truly happy for their success and proud to have been there for them.
CI: What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Art Vivas: None. Really, none. I have grown through it all, and I still continue to grow. I love what I do.
CI: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Art Vivas: Communicate.
When I first joined SPL, we had one of the coolest entertainment/technical directors in the business: Steve Rypka. One of the first things that Steve told me was this: “In our business, we need to let all stakeholders know what’s going on in a project. Art, communicate it. Communicate it all. The good, bad and the ugly. To make good decisions, we all must know what is going on and the truth to it.”
“OK,” I said. “You got it.”
That advice has served me well, and it still does. Communicate it. Communicate it all.