Professor Jesse Jackson Transforming the Arts

Jesse C. Jackson, UC Irvine’s new professor and director of the digital arts minor within Claire Trevor School of the Arts, has more than enough ideas to freshen things up for our academically diverse community. With a well-rounded, international perspective in the fields of art and technology, he hopes to encourage students from all academic realms to engage in creative art-making.

Courtesy of OCAD University Sustainability Office

Courtesy of OCAD University Sustainability Office

“We want to attract students who are both savvy or interested with technology but are also interested in creative design … [as well as] students in art who would like to connect the world of art and design with the constantly evolving world of electronic media,” Jackson says.

Jackson was appointed to his position as director of the digital arts minor this past winter quarter. Before that, he received his Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of British Columbia, moved on to Emily Carr University of Art and Design for further artistic education, and completed architecture school at the University of Toronto. For the past seven years before becoming a professor at UCI, Jackson taught at Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) in Canada.

Getting degrees in a number of diverse fields has allowed him to develop a particular niche for art-making — a niche that amplifies a passion for expressing highly technical skills in creative venues.

He has a few proposed changes for the digital arts minor, including a change of its name to one that matches its utility: instead of “digital arts,” the minor will soon be called “electronic art and design” and will be under the Department of Art and Design instead of simply being a minor for the entire Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

“Since the early 2000s, digital things have become more and more pervasive, so it’s no longer special to simply call it digital art,” Jackson said. “That [name] has lost currency… there is a need for specificity and a way to explore those increasing questions about technology within the realm of art and design.”

Rest assured, no student should worry too much about dramatic changes. The tweaks will simply open up new opportunities for students to generating art in a technological way.

Since coming to UCI, one of the main aspects of our campus that Jackson has been most fascinated by is the fact that students use the school’s parking structures (which he humorously calls a “parkaid,” consistent with his Canadian upbringing) in unique and seemingly unorthodox ways: for dance rehearsals, drumming practice and more.

He’s particularly enthused by the high solidarity students foster while using these large spaces to engage in their unique passions. As a professor who is teaching Arts 11 and Arts 12 within this minor, he has been excited to interact with a large and mixed group of students hailing from various sub-communities of our school.

“[When teaching], you cannot exist in a vacuum in which you solely interact with artists,” Jackson said.

When it comes to a public university, diversity and highly populated spaces simply enrich and support grander artistic dialogues from which all may benefit.

An important tip this he wants to give students at UC Irvine is to simply “try on something different.”

“It’s important to remember that sometimes it’s the other things you do [outside of class] that end up being the most important things…try not to narrowly focus on your academic program.”

Professor Jackson encourages all students to try something new every year — something artful, something athletic or anything at all — because those new opportunities may end up turning into something professionally beneficial or personally supportive in multiple ways.