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MIT student blogger twins Danny and Allan G. '20

Visual Arts @ MIT part 3 by Danny and Allan G. '20

the people who make it all possible

As a way to tie up our visual arts discussions on the blogs, we want to write a final installment in our Visual Arts @ MIT series.

In the first Visual Arts @ MIT post, we talked about the various extracurricular ways, from Borderline to Art Club to Animation Group to Freshman Arts Program to Chroma to Rune, that we have pursued and practiced visual arts at MIT.

In Visual Arts @ MIT part 2, we described our niche interests in various artistic/technical aspects of animation, and how we have been able to learn and practice these things at MIT.

Now, in this post we want to wrap up by providing a bigger picture.

When we entered MIT in our freshman year, we may have been disappointed that there was no fine arts or animation department here. But three months in, an amazing IAP project sprung up out of nowhere, OpenMind::OpenArt, which we describe in more detail in the first part of this series, that allowed us to spend our freshman year IAP sewing our very first fabric art piece! The people we met there, from the fellow artists to the lead of the project to the speakers that came in during our weekly workshops, became friends and peers and even a future summer UROP supervisor.

When we were struggling to learn animation by ourselves in our freshman spring semester, a group of upperclassmen created Borderline and we were able to both paint our own murals and learn Augmented Reality on top of traditional 2D animation. The AR chair at the time was so helpful, teaching us the basics in a workshop, and even met with us one-on-one for 2 hours when we were struggling with Unity.

When we were itching to get better at illustration, we saw Chroma at the Activities Midway, an entirely student run science and humanities magazine that pairs artists with writers to create articles for their semesterly editions. We eagerly joined the team and created art for three of their magazines!

When we were looking for a UROP, one of our fellow Freshman Arts Program counselors emailed us with an opportunity for a graphic design UROP at the MIT Game Lab! Around the same time, we also got an email from the Art Scholars mailing list about a character animation job in the Media Lab!

When we wanted to learn how to 3D model, Allan was able to go to our professor from 4.100 to ask him to supervise his independent study. He happily agreed and gave such useful feedback and support throughout the semester. And this semester, when we wanted to continue learning computer graphics, we were able to find a supervisor that was likewise so willing and so helpful!

When we went to an Arts Scholars sponsored talk given by Thought Cafe, the animators behind CrashCourse, the Art Scholars manager spontaneously invited us to dinner with them afterwards. It was so cool hearing about their animation process over dinner, and even about how they are foraying into the world of AR and VR!

When international artist/muralist Josef Kristofoletti came to MIT to visit one of his colleagues and add a mural to Stata, Borderline got the opportunity to have dinner with him after his colleague told him about the club! It was super cool and inspiring to hear his perspective as a professional muralist and to gain insight into how his career developed!

When we were hanging around the START studio during one of the Borderline animation office hours we hold, we met the new maker in residence, who is dedicating a lot of effort into understanding the arts at MIT. She has been having many conversations with students involved in visual arts at MIT to better understand the landscape and to help create even more support and community!

And when we wrote part 2 of this visual arts series, we got multiple emails from faculty, some of whom we knew and some of whom we didn’t, expressing support and gratitude for our writing. One of the people who reached out to us told us about the really exciting Transmedia Storytelling Initiative to create further support for and structure to various forms of time-based media at MIT, from film to immersive media! She also let us know that there will be a new animation course offered next year at MIT through the architecture department, and she connected us to an architecture alum currently working in the animation industry. We ended up having a zoom call with him shortly after, and it was so cool to hear how his MIT education still helps him today. He also gave us really helpful advice and insights about the industry, and general steps/directions we should be taking.

What we hope this sample of anecdotes illustrates, and there are plenty more of these we didn’t write down here, is a great sense of camaraderie and support we have felt from peers, faculty, and staff over our time at MIT, and a continuing/evolving/expanding community for the arts.

MIT didn’t provide the traditional art experiences we were initially envisioning we would get from college. Rather, through the people and the community we found at MIT, we were able to find unique ways to pursue our specific interests in animation and visual arts, and gain so much more in the process too.