The Westport Arts Center in early February will open a "New Media Lab" in its new auxiliary space on Main Street.

The lab, at 42 Main St. above Bobby Q's Bodacious Bar & Grill, will launch with a panel discussion, "Play Time/Games and the Theories of Play," from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in the center's gallery, 51 Riverside Ave.

The talk will feature specialists in the fields of technology and media, including game designers, new media scholars, media theorists and artists, according to a news release from the center.

The discussion will be moderated by Carolyn McKenzie, artist and recent graduate of Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts. McKenzie, who has studied experimental animation and non-narrative 16-millimeter and Super-8 film, has pursued research concerning video games as social, cultural and psychological agents and a unique format for expression for both player and creator, the release states.

Admission to the panel discussion is $20, $15 for center members.

The teaching faculty for the lab, which will offer introductory workshops in animation, filmmaking and photography, will include artists Evan Pullman Neidich, Michael Elsden and Bridget Dalen.

Neidich, a mixed media artist, illustrator and animator, is coordinator of the Westport Youth Film Festival and a teacher of comics, animation and drawing at Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County and Darien Arts Center.

Elsden studied at London's Middlesex University and at the Royal College of Art, where he attained the first-ever master of philosophy by studio project. He has won numerous awards and honors, including becoming the first artist-in-residence at Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco.

Dalen, a Fairfield University graduate, earned a masters in fine arts in television production at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She works at Fairfield University's Media Center as a staff producer and as an adjunct professor in the New Media: Film, Television and Radio department.

Neidich will teach "Animation with Experimental Materials," for ages 11 to 14, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 11. Experimenting with a variety of materials from food to water to their own bodies, students will make two collaborative animation projects in drawn animation and stop motion. The workshop fee is $45, $35 for center members.

"The Fine Art Portrait" will be taught by Elsden, for ages 15 through adult, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16. An introduction for photographers who want to go beyond taking "snaps" of people, students will be shown how to make compelling, intentional portrait images and be exposed to technical skills to light and shoot a subject. Film and digital cameras are welcome; familiarity with camera controls essential. The fee is $45, $35 for center members.

"Alternative Photography," also taught by Elsden, will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 3, for ages 11 to 14. Students will be shown different ways of making photographic images that are decidedly "alternative." The class will include use of lensless homemade and retro cameras, hand-coated paper, old-school techniques and modern hybrid digital/chemical processes. The fee is $45, $35 for center members.

Dalen will teach "Video Art" 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 24, for ages 11 to 14. Students will be exposed to the basics of video art production techniques to turn creative and artistic ideas into short films suitable for web posting. The fee is $45/$35 for center members.

The lab will also offer four- and five-week summer programs to youth and adults, starting in July. For ages 11 to 14, programs will be available in "Online Video Art Production," "Black and White Darkroom Photography" and "Making Pictures Come Alive: An Introduction to Animation." For ages 15 through adult, there will be a program in "The Fine Art of Photography Ages."

Registration is now underway for all workshops and summer programs taking place in the lab. To register, call the center at 203-222-7070. Visit westportartscenter.org for information.