One of the newest programs on the Lake Erie College campus, and one of the most visible ones, is the integrated media, digital arts and technology (IMDAT) major. At the head of the IMDAT program, and its creator, is Assistant Professor of Integrated Media Steven Gutierrez, a fine arts faculty member who has found a way to combine his two passions: the arts and engineering.
"I am originally from NYC,” Steven, as he is known by his students, said, "and I was actually an artist first, then a mechanical and aerospace engineer, and then an artist again. My final degree, and probably last profession, is in art and technology.”
Steven’s work in art has been primarily focused on social and environmental issues, and he is specifically interested in the intersection of art, technology and design. He has experience in digital imaging, 3D modeling, animation, web authoring, robotics, electronics and installation, and he has had the opportunity to work with the Ohio State University art and technology program and also with the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), where he worked with dancers, computer scientists, geographers and musicians on interdisciplinary projects.
His latest endeavor, however, is LEC’s IMDAT program. Started in 2011, the program has quickly grown and attracted the interest of many new and current students, and Steven is in the core of the program.
He joined the LEC faculty because he was looking for a closer interaction with the students. "I wanted to go somewhere where I could work with the students more personally,” he said. "The small class structure was extremely exciting because I knew I would be able to work with students one-on-one.
"The other unique draw was the focus to use digital media to integrate the visual arts, theater, dance and music. It is a wonderful thing to work with talented artists here at LEC.”
When he was given the opportunity to create his own program, Steven jumped straight at it. "The final icing on the cake was [when] I knew that this was [a place] where I could create something (the IMDAT major) that would demonstrate my passion for the field,” he said. "My goal is to make [the IMDAT program] one of the strongest programs in Ohio.”
Joining the world of academia was not an easy decision, and it happened to be at the end of a very meandering path for Steven. He considered teaching middle school for a while, but ultimately found out that it’s college students he relates best to. "With my desire to converse about art at a college level, I felt this age group was more in line with my interests,” he said.
Getting into art was easier, and it has been a continuous process for him. "My desire to design things led me to the engineering world,” he said, "but when I thought I wanted to do art, I really enjoyed photography. When forced to learn about digital photography, I fell in love with computer graphics and 3D animation. From there I learned about scientists experimenting with art and visualizations. Then I started seeing and learning about media in dance and choreography. As I learned more, I realized that this mix was what I wanted to do.”
It is no wonder that he says Leonardo DaVinci is an inspiration for him. "Like [DaVinci], I enjoy tinkering and inventing things that might help our world,” Steven said. "My specific field allows me to invent crazy, rather than practical, things, like plants that move on wheels.”
His experience with art and technology has been a great motivator to all of his students as well. Inbetween teaching the usual digital photo, graphic design, and video editing classes, Steven is also offering students an opportunity to take classes in 2D/3D animation, computer programming for artists, new media robotics, video game production and mobile app design. Most of these classes are not ones you would find in the course catalogs of many other colleges. At LEC the IMDAT students work on their own videogames, their own robots, video biopics, and on making sure that ‘there is an app for that.’
"We recently completed a calendar of [LEC’s own] Pheasant Run Airport that is selling quite well,” Steven said of one of the completed projects. "[The calendar was a result of] an integrated class using photography and graphic design. We also worked closely with [the LEC] public relations office.His favorite thing about LEC? The students. "I am constantly amazed [at] some of them who came with little to no media experience and are now [very successful],” Steven said. "Even better, they are grateful for the experience and demonstrate it. Now that the [IMDAT] major is [better] known, I have more experienced students coming in with a thirst for knowledge. They, too, have the drive to be amazing. This reminds me why I became a teacher.”