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DigiPen Institute of Technology has long been recognized as a global leader in undergraduate game development education while also boasting an impressive MS in Computer Science program. Recently, the college announced the birth of its second graduate program and one sure to pique interest: the new MFA in Digital Arts. Tailored to artists seeking careers in Games and Entertainment, the program will be available to students on a full or part-time basis beginning in September of 2012.
Soliciting the input of an advisory committee comprised of hiring managers and senior artists from a number of studios, the MFA program carefully combines foundational studies in areas such as sculpture, figure drawing and art history with the latest production techniques including digital sculpting, rendering and rigging.
"DigiPen’s MFA program will advance today’s modern sculptor in the digital age,” says Ted Warnock, senior animator at Flying Lab Software and a long-time industry veteran. To accomplish the mission, DigiPen looked to sculptor Alecia Rossano to head the new program. It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to spotlight a never-before-seen graduate program that is still nine months away from blastoff, but Rossano gave us a sneak peak at what we have to look forward to come next fall at DigiPen.
ACR: Alecia, thanks for speaking with us today about DigiPen’s new Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts. What was the impetus behind this program and what aspects of the curriculum distinguish it from other programs?
AR: Many existing Master’s programs are oriented more towards using digital media to create fine art or gallery installations. Ours will be targeted to students who want to enter the game or film industry. While still supporting the development of their personal artistic voice, the curriculum is designed for them to also reach a very high level of skill in a particular area of specialization. They will have the opportunity to work with Master’s students in our MS in Computer Science program on game projects, as well.
I have observed that there are many fine artists who would like to explore a career in digital art, but if they already hold a Bachelor’s degree they are often deterred from entering our BFA program because of the length and financial aid restrictions. Given the opportunity, these artists could really help the industry to mature and broaden its aesthetic range.
ACR: How important is the balance between foundational art courses and applied knowledge in the context of the latest technologies and production methods?
AR: I strongly believe that the art must come first and that specific technologies are vehicles for communicating the artist’s ideas. With this in mind, the foundational courses are critical for learning concepts of design, color theory, anatomy, etc. Of course, the technology must be learned, but a student studying sculpture, for example, is wrestling with the same artistic issues whether they are working in clay or Zbrush.
ACR: You are an accomplished sculptor yourself. Are the digital arts an extension of contemporary art today?
A: Yes, digital arts are an important part of contemporary art today. For artists working in traditional media, digital media can even be a useful way to try potential ideas or changes before making the edits physically.
ACR: The first class of MFA graduate students at DigiPen will descend on your Redmond campus in September of 2012 and be limited to approx. 15 students to start. Do you anticipate students coming from a variety of backgrounds?
AR: I hope that we have students from a variety of backgrounds. In the history of art, many of the most exciting and catalyzing moments have happened when cultures encounter each other for the first time. Art is a conversation and a communication. Every artist needs partners to challenge them in order to examine their own ideas and to keep their work fresh.
ACR: Lastly, what advantages does your Greater Seattle-area location pose to incoming MFA students?
AR: There are a great many game studios in this area. Already, this has made it easy to find digital artists to serve on the Program Advisory Committee and thesis committee. We also anticipate that some digital artists working at area studios will also become adjunct instructors and guest lecturers for the MFA program. Perhaps most importantly, our relationship with local game studios will provide internship and job opportunities for our students and graduates.
ACR: Alecia, thanks for answering a few of our questions. We look forward to watching the MFA program as the first term nears.
AR: Thank you!
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.