Sean Clute Teaching
As an educator I strive to facilitate artistic expression through media art. I have been drawn to this genre because of its potential contribution to contemporary art, human ingenuity, self-perception and technological advancement. Pedagogical practices with regard to media arts are not codified, making both teacher and student alike open to vast possibilities. The boundless scope of media also leads to one of the discipline’s greatest challenges: with such a diversity of options for expressivity what does one say and how does one say it? To meet this challenge, I utilize my knowledge and professional experience to facilitate the growth of students’ conceptual and technical skills. By introducing the foundations of art, design, software programming, hardware building and collaboration, while prioritizing an artistic concept or vision, I attempt to balance art and technology education.

In foundation classes I develop curriculum to include fundamentals of time-based media, image-processing, vector manipulation and interactivity. I reinforce these principles by emphasizing the need for creative inquiry, intentionality and collaboration. Through lectures, demos, labs and critiques I model the classroom as a space for creative and intellectual development. Importantly, I place an emphasis on linking to a historical context for all projects. As developments in software and hardware rapidly change, a strong grasp of foundations allow students to have a core from which to grow.

When teaching a hybridization of many traditional and non-traditional art forms, it is important to hone communication, collaboration, and team building skills. As art and design tools become increasingly powerful, often these tools become equally complex rendering it impossible for an individual to be an expert in all aspects of production. Therefore, I encourage interdisciplinary collaboration to exemplify the power of realizing an artistic vision. By developing team tasks I can prepare students to become better equipped for contributing to academia, design companies, performance groups, and other collaborative environments.

When dealing with both lectures and projects, it is vital to provide a complete framework of art by discussing historical and contemporary examples. In this way, students may then clearly incorporate aspects of such examples into their own artistic visions. I have been fortunate to participate firsthand with interdisciplinary digital artists and groups throughout the United States and Europe. Having a personal connection with and documentation of these artists allows me to share experiential artifacts and thus invigorate student interest in fine arts. By assigning readings and viewings of relevant works, I can furthermore steer curricula toward the most pressing issues facing contemporary art and technology.

I believe that providing students with opportunities to integrate self-directed projects with collaborative projects and extracurricular activities helps them visualize how art is relevant in their everyday experiences and how it can be used as an instrument to accomplish a wide range of objectives. As students gain artistic and technical proficiency, I devise class assignments to become increasingly self-directed. This progression helps to foster a stronger connection between the project and the student’s own experiences, ideas, and interests. In addition to core curricula, I feel it is important to remain attentive to extracurricular issues. By uniting the acquisition of technical skills with conceptual topics that move students outside of the academic arena, I advocate critical thinking and active participation in their community.

Learning software programming is a key component to developing the critical skills necessary for realizing innovative media art projects. While many institutions teach commercial software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Final Cut Pro, it is my hope to integrate these tools with knowledge of how to write and customize code for artistic aims. Using graphical object oriented programming languages such as Max/MSP/Jitter, as well as text-based open source languages like Processing, provides students with the building blocks necessary to create original code, thinking and artworks. Introducing students to programming concepts enables them to learn other languages of increased specificity including proprietary web, sound, and graphics software.

Having knowledge of constructing hardware is another important aspect of the media art discipline. Whether circuit building, working with microcontrollers, or developing sensor interfaces, hardware development allows the student to connect analog data from a physical environment with binary data of a computer environment and vice versa. Introducing students to prototyping with open source hardware like Arduino teaches them how sensor information can activate lights, actuate motors, and ultimately enable them to fabricate sculptural art objects. As an instructor I prepare students for presentation of a screening, installation, performance, or other hybrid electronic artwork and encourage the student to advance from a beta version of a project to an alpha version. Thus, I teach students strategies for adopting efficient work-flow to ensure successful realization of projects in real world conditions.

I enjoy guiding energetic and creative students as they develop into artists. As media art continues to evolve and create more complex and enriching forms of sensory experience, such advancements will continue to inform students’ academic and professional decision-making processes.