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January 10, 2002 In the eye of a technical revolution: Fine Arts Dean Christopher Jackson



Christopher Jackson

Fine Arts Dean Christopher Jackson

Christopher Jackson is in his eighth year as dean of Fine Arts, and will step down at the end of his second five-year term. In an interview recently for Concordia University Magazine, he said the biggest change during his tenure was the rising importance in the fine arts of digital technology.

“The interesting aspect is not that we use computers but rather that artists are running those computers, that they are developing content for them and using them as artistic media,” he said.

Keeping up with these developments is challenging on many fronts, including the expense of maintaining the technology, hiring technical support and training faculty.

Dean Jackson said that it’s also difficult to predict when to let go of the old technology. The new fine arts building will have darkrooms designed with enough flexibility to change into digital labs, but when will the Faculty no longer need its conventional photo processors?

The Faculty of Fine Arts has always been pressed for space, and the Visual Arts Building, on René-Lévesque Blvd., is not designed as a fine arts building.

The new building to be constructed on the corner of Ste. Catherine and Guy Sts. will be designed specifically for visual arts, with galleries and digital labs side by side with traditional equipment. It will be a neighbour of the university’s computer scientists, producing a synergy suitable to the digital revolution. With the consolidation of the visual arts in one building, instead of in a variety of add-ons to the VA Building, interdisciplinary will have a chance to flourish.

“The fine arts are expensive to teach, almost as expensive as medicine,” Jackson said. “We have small classes, lots of equipment, technicians, workshops and wet labs, and we are the largest fine arts faculty in Canada.”

The Faculty accepts only one of every four students who apply. The results are high standards and a national reputation. “Our students are already accomplished artists with large portfolios before they come to us. Our film students have been to Cannes and have been nominated for Oscars.”

While Concordia’s has always been a pure arts school, there is some movement in the direction of career training, he said. “We are starting to develop industry links and bridges with the artistic community and local museums.

“We find that many industries are now drawing on students in the fine arts because they provide content in the digital and multimedia fields. Design has always had a strong internship program, but now we have theatre students doing internships with local theatres and film students interning with production houses.”