If one goes back in time and looks at the state of hospitals in the 18th century and compares them to the contemporary ones, the differences are vast. But, if you look at the 18th century classrooms and compare them to the ones of today, it is remarkably similar. The convergence of electronic art, media and technology is transforming our society and the role of an educator shifts dramatically -- it becomes a responsibility to help develop programs that are responding to these changes. The professor moves from a role of an authority figure to one of a facilitator, a filter, pointing the student to the appropriate information in order to develop their particular talents and strengths.
I have always been attracted to innovation which has progressively led me from painting to film, to experimentation with music, to video production and installation and performance art. On many an occasion I have collaborated and worked with scientists and have been instrumental in fostering a relationship between the department of art and college of engineering in the process. In my opinion, students gain tremendously to being exposed to the seemingly opposite worlds that, through computer technology and with the aid of the artist, are converging. I thrive in a university setting because of the concentration of brilliant people from a variety of disciplines and am always surprised at how few take advantage of this. In spirit of collaborative work, I am interested in developing courses that would be team taught, in some cases with faculty at remote sites utilizing network technology.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subjects I teach, my classes have attracted students across a wide range of disciplines, including Biology, English, German, Economics, Sociology, Engineering, Computer Science, Music, and Art History. Although I find the interdisciplinary atmosphere stimulating, I have too often found that students tend to assume using computers cancels the need for a solid art in design foundation. For this reason I have developed a lower division introductory class that gives a broad overview of the visual and performing arts field, and stresses the importance of learning more traditional art and design skills.
I believe that it is very important for artists to be aware of their historical heritage, no matter what technology they end up using. Many art students lack knowledge of the historical background of computer technology, and the impact such technology has had in the arts. This realization prompted me to develop a graduate course entitled "History of Art & Computing." The course attracted students from Music, Art history, Art Studio and Computer Science, and provided fertile ground for many lively and informative discussions. Two graduate students from UC Berkeley also signed up for this course, fulfilling the expected requirements remotely, and flying down for a personal meeting and critique at the course's end. The interest and commitment exhibited by these students helped catalyze my thinking about distance education in the arts, an area that I plan to give serious attention to in the near future, taking into account the need to balance remote learning situations with person to person meetings.
Most multimedia productions are collaborative and it is essential that students learn how to work in group projects. My own interest in collaborative interdisciplinary projects has led me to believe that it is important for art students, who have traditionally been taught to work alone, to experiment with group projects. Although I strongly encourage this, I have never made it an absolute requirement, and make a point to show that students and faculty alike should have respect for various approaches to work.
In the field of technology and art, I believe it is critical to be able to articulate clearly what one does as an artist. For this reason, I have students write proposals and do background research on individuals who may have related interests or who have done similarly inspired projects. To do this well requires an awareness of some of the key theoretical writing of the past thirty years. Although I incorporate such reading and discussion materials into the classes that are production oriented, I try to be sensitive to students who work from a more intuitive level and develop creative ways, other than written critique, for them to respond to course materials.
I believe that a teacher's skill is in detecting where the potential strength of a student may lie, and to then be able to guide him or her by pointing out appropriate paths. This helps to establish an atmosphere of trust between student and faculty, student and peers, and allows for the creative process to fully emerge. My own education has varied from majoring in fashion design to pursuing a degree in fine arts to accepting a PhD position the same year I received tenure. I believe that it is critical to teach student that ones education never ends and to keep encouraging a spirit of discovery. I am interested in development of new experimental courses that utilize the very technologies that are being taught and it is my ultimate goal to move the area of digital arts to be accepted as serious research within a university setting.