Offerings at Art School expand

Demand for classes in digital media has grown rapidly in recent years, prompting the School of Art to add undergraduate courses in the subject.

This semester, “Digital Drawing” joins classes in “Digital Photography” and “Introduction to Digital Video,” and further expansion into digital fields may be in the art major’s future, professors and administrators said.

Henk van Assen, director of undergraduate studies for the art major, said he has noticed an increasing interest in digital art among students and faculty over the past two years. The new classes have been created in order to accommodate this new enthusiasm and curiosity.

“We’re trying to create classes that meet our demand,” van Assen said.

Pia Lindman, who teaches “Introduction to Digital Video,” said interest in digital media is outpacing many art students’ experience.

“A lot of students and artists end up in a situation where they need to use a video camera and … they have to learn a whole new medium,” Lindman said.

Many other classes in the art department have at least some digital component. Advanced photography classes often allow students to combine film photography with digital printing. Graphic design and typography courses also incorporate digital elements, and even sculpture classes may involve digital photography or video.

Sarah Oppenheimer, who teaches “Digital Drawing,” said “Visual Thinking,” a prerequisite for the art major, incorporates digital skills such as graphic design to fill the students’ artistic toolboxes.

But interest in digital media classes seems to be outpacing new offerings. On the first day of “Digital Photography,” 48 students showed up to fill 12 seats, prompting the Art School to consider offering two sections of the course next semester, said John Lehr, who is teaching the class this fall.

“Words are spreading about the classes,” Lehr said. “I think the students are wanting to get their hands on new technology.”

Both Oppenheimer and Lindman said their classes also drew more students than could be accommodated.

Both art majors and other students are taking advantage of the new offerings. Neither “Digital Photography” nor “Introduction to Digital Video” has a prerequisite, and students come to class with a wide variety of interests outside the field of art, van Assen said.

Gemma Bloemen ’10, a psychology and international studies major, said about two-thirds of the students in her digital photography class are non-art majors. She said the class is a way for her to pursue an interest outside of her majors.

In addition, some students said digital classes are a good option for those who want to take an art course but do not want to invest in expensive materials and equipment.

Gabriel Diaz ’08 said he sometimes spends as much as $500 per semester doing film photography, whereas digital photography students can check out cameras from the Yale Digital Media Center for the Arts and do not need to buy film or process it — although owning a digital camera is recommended for the class. Furthermore, a class using film video, as opposed to digital video, would be prohibitively expensive for even the most dedicated undergraduate, he said.

Digital media can also be easier to use and manipulate, a number of students said.

“It’s very much the layman’s media,” Leon Powell ’08 said.

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