Cornell Art Department Expands Digital Art Offerings

Cornell’s Advanced Digital Art meets earlier this year. IMAGE VIA CORNELL COLLEGE

Artists at Cornell College in Mount Vernon are finding new ways to interact with technology as a new professor introduces more digital art classes into programming.

While digital art has been taught for a few years, Assistant Art Professor Alex McKenzie has added his own expertise to the class.

“The course provides students with a framework for contemporary art practice in which the computer is both a tool and a place to create and experience art,” McKenzie said.

During his first year teaching One Course At A Time, Mr. McKenzie spent approximately one week of the 3.5-week block on an Adobe Suite program, including Photoshop, Premiere and Illustrator, covering concepts such as graphic design, photo manipulation, animation and video editing.

“You learn the block plan very quickly,” McKenzie said. “I’ve been impressed with how quickly people have gone from having no experience to having a fair amount of skill with these programs because they can be quite complicated.”

Senior Ella Fogarty came to Cornell as a transfer student and said she enjoyed learning more about the subjects taught by McKenzie.

“I was really excited for digital art classes to be offered, as my previous school only had a limited number of digital art classes and it’s something I’ve always been interested in pursuing” , Fogarty said. “My favorite project was probably a short animation we made in Adobe Photoshop, because I felt like I had a lot of freedom to experiment while practicing the skills we learned in class.”

Mr. McKenzie said he was also excited to be developing another digital art subject at Cornell – animation. For the first time last spring, he taught a new course called Advanced Digital Art, focusing on stop motion and hand-drawn animation.

“I really enjoyed doing the animation in the classes, and that’s something I experimented with more over the summer,” Ms. Fogarty said. “I also liked being able to combine the skills I learned in these classes with my previous experience in traditional art, such as drawing frames by hand and using Photoshop or another program to sequence them into an animation .”

And these two digital art courses are just the beginning for the Department of Art and Art History.

“We are currently consolidating course offerings and working to create a broader curriculum of courses around digital art,” McKenzie said. “Eventually there will be a course entirely dedicated to graphic design and a course dedicated to sound design production, and some courses related to the art of projection, projection mapping, working with video and installing these in spaces rather than just on the screen.”

Additionally, in the future, Cornell will have a Mac computer lab on the fourth floor of McWethy Hall for digital art classes and creation.

While these courses and future plans create well-rounded artists, these experiences also extend far beyond the realm of fine art into many different careers.

“I think it doesn’t matter if you want to become a good artist or whatever, these are contemporary communication tools,” McKenzie said. “Business, science, really anything – many of these skills can translate into communicating easily digestible and visually actionable information and ideas, which I think is important no matter what your field or your field of studies.”

Ms Fogarty said she plans to pursue a career in the visual arts industry.

“I would love to do something that involves animation or digital illustration,” she said. “The skills I learned in these courses are things that I think I will build on as I continue in this field.”

McKenzie started at Cornell in 2020 and enjoys researching and studying sound design and sound design installation, digital and internet literacy, and memetics. He previously taught at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC, and his work has recently been exhibited at the Mint Museum of Art in (Charlotte, NC), 500X Gallery (Dallas, TX) and Project 1612 (Peoria, Ill.). ). He holds a master’s degree in temporal arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.


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