Dana Winslow Atchley III


Artist, musician, storyteller and creative visionary Dana Winslow Atchley III, born April 15, 1941 in Boston MA, died December 13, 2000 at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. His death was the result of complications following a bone-marrow transplant initiated in July, 2000.

Recognized as the father of the Digital Storytelling movement, his professional life spanned five decades intersecting the fields of fine arts, education, performing arts, media production and interactive digital media. In the last decade he was perhaps best known for his interactive theatrical performance, "Next Exit". "Next Exit" which has appeared at entertainment and industry venues throughout the world, combined a lifetime collection of Atchley's personal images and stories and when performed told of an emotionally rich life experience.

Atchley spent his formative years in Lexington and Lincoln, MA attending Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, MA from 1955-1959. Classically trained in the arts of printmaking and graphic design, Atchley received his BA with Distinction from Dartmouth College in 1963. He was also a Senior Fellow at Dartmouth, traveling to Europe in 1962 to research and write the book, "Charon's Quince". He continued his formal training at Yale University studying in the Graduate School of Graphic Design under Walker Evans, Paul Rand and Dieter Roth. He received his BFA, MFA from Yale in1965.

Atchley first took his love of typography and printing into the realm of the moving image in 1965 when he produced the documentary film, "The Making of a Renaissance Book" which was filmed at the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

Atchley taught Graphic Design and Multimedia Visual Arts at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore from 1966 to 1969. He was Assistant Professor in Visual Arts at the University of Victoria in British Columbia from 1969 to 1971. In addition he was Artist in Residence at more than fifty colleges and schools under programs sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, including California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA.

Atchley was an integral part of artistic rebellions, performance happenings and formal experimentation expressed in the Fluxus movement and the work of artists like Andy Warhol that shaped the art world of the time. His prints, drawings and visual poetry from the 1960's has been included in more than fifty international exhibitions and collections including the NY Museum of Art. His publishing of "Space Atlas and Notebook One" from 1969-1971 were considered defining projects in the "Correspondence Art" movement.

A principal theme of Atchley's life's work was capturing the images and experiences of the American highway. He embraced the artist identities of "Ace Space" and "the Colorado Spaceman" in the late 1960's and the 1970's, and while crisscrossing the country in progressively larger vans, photographing, videotaping and interviewing the characters that create the roadside landscape and Americana art as artifact. During this time Atchley founded, "The Ace Space Company", and expressed his notion of the universe with the motto, "Space is the connector of all things". Atchley created the multimedia performance, "Road Show" which was based on his more than half million miles of travel throughout America. "Road Show" was performed live by Atchley at hundreds of colleges, clubs and galleries throughout North America.

Atchley's physical "home-base" during this time was Crested Butte, Colorado a small defunct mining town that Atchley discovered in 1968. He purchased an historic home at this time and continued to bring his two small children, Megan and Gillian there each summer as they continued to grow.

The 1980's led Atchley to San Francisco where he was recognized throughout the Bay Area as one of the most active and respected independent video producers through his own companies, Network TV and Video Postcards. He produced hundreds of original feature segments for nationally syndicated shows and corporate clients including: PM Magazine's, "What's Hot? What's Not", Showtime's "What's Up America", "Hour Magazine", "Entertainment Tonight" and segments for French Television, Banana Republic and Apple Computer.

The 1990's led Atchley to turn the focus of his storytelling about others to himself, exploring a new genre of expression he coined "Digital Storytelling". Sitting at his "video campfire" and reciting stories against a projected media backdrop, he took the oldest of performing roles, the campfire storyteller, and updated it for the 21st century. Most inspiring perhaps was Dana's celebration of the family album and the stories they tell. "Next Exit" mined stories from Dana's extensive collection of personal imagery (every image he had taken since age 7) as well as five generations of his family's images dating back to the mid-19th century. Dana demonstrated that you could sustain the charm and intimacy of the ancient oral art form of storytelling while painting a backdrop with the magical new palette of digital imagery.

Atchley considered "Next Exit" to be his calling card and excellent design example for his consulting company, Dana Atchley Productions from which corporate clients could use their own rich histories to define their identities and build brand. Atchley's recent clients included The Coca Cola Company, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Apple Computer, Adobe Systems, and J. Walter Thompson. Of the many performances, "Next Exit" was presented as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival, Exit Festival in Sweden, the American Film Institute's National Video Festival, American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia, the Chair Conference in San Francisco, Storytelling for the New Millennium conference in Kauai, and the Australian Interactive Media Awards in Adelaide.


Dana Atchley believed so strongly in the power of Digital Storytelling that in 1995 he founded along with his life-partner Denise Aungst (now Atchley) The Digital Storytelling Fesitival. Held annually in Crested Butte, Colorado, this gathering was a forum where artists, educators, and professional communicators addressed the many issues surrounding story and new media. Through the course of five annual festivals, attendance grew from under 30 to over 250 participants. Atchley also co-founded the San Francisco Digital Media Center with artists Joe Lambert and Nina Mullen and co-hosted the popular Joe's Digital Diner new media salon in San Francisco.

Atchley was recognized by Apple Computer as a charter member of the AppleMasters program in1997, he has served on the Advisory Board of MediaLinx h@bitat at the Canadian Film Center and was named a Top 100 Producer of 1998 by Video & Multimedia Producer Magazine. He was also a member of the Society of Digital Geezers.

Atchley resided in San Francisco, CA and Crested Butte, CO.

Dana Winslow Atchley III is survived by his loving wife and partner of seven years, Denise Atchley and their five cats, San Francisco . Also by his loving daughters Gillian Atchley, San Francisco and Megan Atchley and son-in-law Ian Swinson and granddaughter Lucy Collete of Oakland. Mother Barbara Welch French, Portsmouth R.I; sisters Polly Allen, Lebanon, N.H., Betsy Rowland, Edmond, OK, Sarah Atchley, Dalton, MA, Quita Schillhammer, Acton, MA, Cornelia Atchley, Alexandria, VA, Katherine Atchley, Charlestown, MA. As well as uncles aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate the extraordinary gift of Dana's life will be held January 28, 2001, 3:00PM at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: The Dana Atchley Foundation, 3435 Cesar Chavez Street, Studio 221 San Francisco, CA 94110; a memorial fund to honor the legacy and spirit of Dana's work in the years to come.

An ongoing memorial for Dana's work and life will be developed at http://www.nextexit.com, his personal and professional website.

A digital photo of Dana W. Atchley III can be found at:


For more information please contact:

Denise Atchley
Tel: 415-285-8955
Email: denise@nextexit.com