Cutting edge creativity

New Queen’s courses combine computing and the creative arts

Roel Vertegaal is the professor of COCA 201, Introduction to Computing and the Creative Arts.
Roel Vertegaal is the professor of COCA 201, Introduction to Computing and the Creative Arts.
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If you combine arts with computing, you get cutting-edge creativity.

Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal said he believes in combining computing with the creative arts. By using state-of-the-art new media software technology, it may give students a new kind of multidisciplinary education.

This, he said, can inspire students to develop innovative computer applications for the future.

Vertegaal, who teaches the course Introduction to Computing and the Creative Arts (COCA 201), said that the University should work towards introducing students to a more hands-on education.

This, he said, can be achieved by combining theory with practice, preparing them as they face a competitive job market.

The Computing and Creative Arts program began in 2008.

“It was partly meant to encourage students in the arts to embrace the computer sciences in order to create something entirely new,” Vertegaal said.

The program is meant for students who are interested in both computing and at least one of the creative arts taught at Queen’s: art, film and media, drama or music, Vertegaal said.

He said the program is a good way to balance the skewed enrolment of a lot of males in computing and mostly females in the arts.

It’s also meant to attract females to the program so that they realize that when they combine arts and computers, they create something entirely new.

“The arts should have a more hands-on approach which teaches students proper skills, allowing them to create their own jobs for the future,” Vertegaal said. “Just like biologists learn to do lab experiments, we need to teach our students not just Java, but Microsoft Windows, and use specific examples that are not abstract.”

Students in the program are exposed to a wide range of innovative possibilities.

They learn about the electronic arts, computer games, architectural design, animation, virtual reality and critical philosophy.

Vertegaal said he was always passionate about both the arts and computing since he started playing around with graphics and electronic music in 1986.

This, he said, inspired him to become a professor and teach technological innovation.

“Our students evolve in the program starting with almost no knowledge of computers to producing internationally-accepted art pieces that are produced electronically,” Vertegaal said.

Antonio Gomes, PhD ’16, assists Vertegaal and is the TA for the course.

The course, he said, allows students to tap into skills they never thought they possessed.

“What really fascinates me is how students from different backgrounds have no awareness of their creative potential,” Gomes said.

“If you ask a science student to produce something artistic, he will think he can never do it and if you ask an arts student something about computers, he will say he doesn’t know anything.”

But when arts students take COCA 201, they end up engaging with computers and producing interactive art that they never believed they were capable of creating, he said.

“We’re past the stage where art was just inside a museum. Now, we can produce art via virtual technology that is available at your fingertips,” Gomes said.

“This program really enables you to think outside the box.”

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