Thirty-eight full-time Fine Arts faculty members attended an all-day seminar on May 11 to look at how electronic technology can best be integrated into the delivery of fine-arts education.
"It's two very different ways of looking at the world," said Associate Dean Academic Affairs Andrea Fairchild, but that doesn't mean that a creative marriage between the fine arts and technology can't be made.
The seminar had been in the planning since January. A questionnaire was sent out to every department, asking what impact the new technology was likely to have on that discipline.
A range of options and their attendant pitfalls was laid out at an evening lecture on May 10 by Michael Century, who has advised governments on technology and the arts and designed a program for the Banff School of Fine Arts.
The following day, a series of workshops was held in the Faculty, with the participants broken into small groups to mix the disciplines. They looked at how technology would affect teaching and curriculum development, extenal relationships with government and industry, and internal relationships at the University.
The subject will be taken up again in the fall, Fairchild said, and will be expanded to include part-time faculty, who have much to contribute to the discussion.
The stereotypical starving artist may become a relic of the past, thanks to the digital age.
McGill professor of communications Michael Century, who gave the keynote lecture on May 10 to kick off a Concordia Fine Arts symposium on teaching art with computers, said in an interview that there is a growing demand for artists who can bring meaning to interactive media.
"It's no secret that artists become more employable when they work with interactive media. People trained in the arts are the most skilled in using new media; they are using it to create, to make a statement.
"New media are by nature fluid and fast-changing, but artists can ride the surf more easily than the average person. They are driven by a creative purpose, and are prepared to invest their creativity in mastering technological tools, or in developing their own."
Century emphasized that interactive media is not an end in itself -- content is key. "It's not surprising that early computer animation, for example, was boring. It became more interesting when more artists got involved, and started telling good stories in exciting ways.
"In the early days of cinema, people went to theatres to see moving pictures with no story -- for example, a film of a train leaving a station. Today we're past that stage. There is a huge amount of hype built up around interactive media; expectations have been raised very high, but there has not yet been enough attention paid to content."
Fine arts departments are addressing this problem in one of two ways. "One approach is to treat it as a specialty, setting up a separate multimedia department to segregate the expertise. Another way is to treat it as a pervasive technology, something that any fine arts student can use, whether they're doing cinema, dance, painting or design.
"In this model, all students would get some training in using digital tools and equipment. Both are valid, but I think the second approach yields better results in the long run."
- by Sylvain Comeau