May 7, 1998

New "multimedia authoring" course links art and computer science

An explosion of digital creativity

by Debbie Hum

Students in a new program, Digital Image/Sound and the Fine Arts, presented their year's work to Rector Frederick Lowy, Fine Arts Dean Christopher Jackson and Associate Dean Lynn Hughes on April 21.

"These projects are remarkable, and absolutely impressive for someone like myself who is not a computer whiz," Rector Lowy said of the projects created in the Fine Arts Silicon Graphics and Macintosh labs. "I hope there is a way of presenting your skills and techniques to the larger public," he told the students.

In fact, student works, using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Macromedia Director with Lingo scripting, Shockwave and javascript, and Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), will soon be displayed on the course
Web site, http://www-fofa.con-

The projects were completed for the course DFAR 350 Multimedia Authoring, which is core to a new double major program that combines 45 credits of Computer Science with 45 credits of Fine Arts.

The course focuses on Web-page design, multimedia design and building virtual worlds. The program, an educational "blend of computer knowledge and artistic studies," is coordinated by Professor Greg Garvey, Chair of the Design Art Department.

Over the year, students have had access to resources and original source materials from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, such as digital scans from the collection and authoritative text in French and English. Successful student projects may be linked to the museum's
Web site.

Garvey said that having permission to use the museum's resources is invaluable. "The real-world aspect of the course is quite compelling," he said. "It really depends on the individual student's initiative and perseverance to research and request materials."

Student Lori Allen created two interactive tours based on works from the museum's permanent collection. "Mythical, Magical Creatures" is an educational game that features artwork from the ancient cultures gallery. Allen also developed a tour of the life and work of Quebec artist Paul-Émile Borduas.

Louis P. Huard invited the Rector to explore "Juanita's World," a three-dimensional tour of the Galapagos. It features panflute music and environmental information on the remote islands made famous by Charles Darwin.

Yves Gigon based his "Musical Chair" project on the "Blue Red" chair, of the classic De Stijl chair designs by Gerrit Rietveld, using VRML to add "spatialized sound, behaviour and animation in an interactive three-dimensional world."

Students have also worked on multimedia projects outside of the course. Eight students supervised by Design Art's Don Corman are participating in "À la poursuite d'un rêve," a multimedia collaboration between Concordia, Montreal's FACE School and the Harry Miller Middle School in New Brunswick.

The project is sponsored by the Charles R. Bronfman Foundation and the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation. Selections from the J.A. Bombardier Museum and the Bronfman corporate collection, the Claridge Collection, were digitized and used to create interactive activities in French and English for students in grades 2 to 8.

Garvey and Linda Bien, of the Faculty of Fine Arts Slide Library, were recently awarded a $22,000 Schoolnet Grant from Industry Canada to create the Anne Savage Web site. A team of 10, led by student Fred Oliver, have spent the year bringing together research material from the Anne Savage Archive, which was compiled by Professor Emerita Leah Sherman (Art Education).

Savage was part of the vital Canadian art movements of the 1930s and '40s. Formerly an art teacher at Baron Byng High School, she was closely linked to the Group of Seven and the Northern Symbolist tradition.

"Such a project requires team effort and an entire infrastructure of faculty, students and technicians to make it all happen. It comes down to the idea of a culture of technology, where shared knowledge allows you to create sophisticated projects," Garvey said.

Students enrolled in the program have also been awarded contracts by Stentor Communications, an alliance of 11 Canadian telecommunication companies, to work on designs for the CANFIND Web site program on disaster relief.

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