Digital art program coming to ‘7 Gens’

Summer reporter
Stephanie Hagenaars

A new program at the Seven Generations Education Institute here hopes to put a digital spin on how students tell their stories.
“Video Game Art” is a new two-year diploma program being offered through SGEI, in partnership with Sault College, that allows students to explore art creation and digital production.
It will be one of the inaugural programs in the new facility along Highway 11 when it opens its doors in January.
“We will be purchasing all new state-of-the-art equipment and computers for this particular program,” said Don Eldridge, SGEI post-secondary co-ordinator for Fort Frances.
“We’re quite excited to bring it to Fort Frances.”
The program consists of four semesters, first building skills in traditional art and the history of video games before moving into digital art creation and game analysis.
Eldridge said there are a couple of reasons why SGEI decided to bring the program to Fort Frances.
Digital technology is evolving continuously and has become a significant part of everyday life. As such, SGEI wanted to embrace that young generation who enjoy the digital world and are looking for a program that’s centered around using various digital technology tools.
Another reason is personal expression.
“The other element to it, of course, is that for First Nations’ individuals, in particular, it’s another medium where they can tell their stories,” Eldridge noted.
“It’s very story-based and we feel that, through video game art as a means of expression, it’s just another way for our learner base to be able to embrace their culture and expand into different areas,” he explained.
Artistic talent or know-how is not a pre-requisite.
Because of the structure of the program, even those who believe they have little to no artistic ability can learn to draw people and landscapes while also understanding tools such as colour theory and the rule of thirds.
Learning the basics of traditional art, using methods such as pens, brushes, and other tools, is a building block that helps students visualize what they’ll later put onto the screen.
Even the best digital designers start off with a drawing on a page.
“Video games start with a concept,” Eldridge said. “Designers will actually draw them up on poster boards for presentation purposes . . . before anything is ever actually digitized.”
Once those skills are developed, he noted students will begin to bring their creations to life through digital mediums using a wide array of software programs.
And once a student graduates from the diploma program, there are many different industries for them to thrive in.
“A person could work within the video game industry, that’s one option,” said Eldridge.
“What’s also nice about that particular industry is that it lends itself well to freelance design.”
A lot of jobs today offer the ability to telecommute (or work from home)–and a digital design career is no different. Many media companies post positions online that are fully–or sometimes partially–remote work.
This means digital skills can expand a student’s career experience without having to move to a new city or town.
In terms of transferable skills, the knowledge gained through the video game arts program can help a student enter careers in motion graphics, environmental modelling, and broadcast television.
Some also could see themselves bringing buildings and new products to life at engineering or architecture firms.
“Very often, within those industries, they are seeking out people with skills in digitizing images so that they can bring building plans to life on the screen,” said Eldridge.
“I think that, certainly within web design, marketing, and engineering, there’s a number of transferrable skills that a person could apply their learning from this program to.”
Registration is open for the “Video Game Art” program starting in January and will be accepting 12-15 students for its inaugural intake–a typical number throughout many SGEI programs.
“We try to keep our class sizes reasonably small because it allows for maximum interaction between instructors and students, and staff and students,” noted Eldridge.
“We find that that 12-15 mark tends to provide us with the best results.”
Eldridge also said SGEI currently is looking for instructors for the program and that anyone interested can call SGEI for more information.