Associate Chair of Design
The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
As an artist, I did my undergrad concentrating in sculpture so I assumed, as most “starving” artists, that I needed to find a job to support my “artist” status. I worked several jobs that made me not so happy until, while working a corporate I.T. job, my wife could tell I was miserable and asked a simple question—“What would you really like to be?” Without hesitation I said, “Architect!” In all my professional experience and going through my undergrad years, not one person ever asked me that question. I now have a Master of Architecture degree and have been in the profession since 2006, all thanks to my very intelligent wife!
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?
In every class that I have taught so far here at Ai Austin, I have given real-world examples from projects that I was either working on at the time of those classes or finished projects to show the realities of the profession. Each project has a lesson all to itself that was easy to tie in to my classes and I was able to share both good and bad with the outcomes in each situation.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
Next quarter, in Winter of 2017, I have a research project set up for Environmental Design. We will be working with BuzziSpace. The Belgian company BuzziSpace was established in 2007. The new brand’s designs became a worldwide hit almost immediately, as they responded to the global need to bring silence and style to the office. BuzziSpace designs can be used in changing environments worldwide—our offices, houses, and other collaborative spaces are becoming increasingly compact and we are opting more frequently for open-plan spaces. I reached out to them about information for our schools resource room and we struck up a conversation about sustainability and materials. Our class will research ways that BuzziSpace can utilize any waste from their production, whether it is utilizing it in a totally new design or current designs more successfully with less to no waste. I am also introducing my students to a contractor and clients on a current project for a zero waste/off grid gymnasium. The students will help in contributing to the design, as well as being introduced to contractors who specialize in sustainable building solutions and clients who have taken the challenge to be mindful in their impact on our environment through engaging professionals willing to design with not only our future generations health and well-being in mind but that of all species of life on the planet.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
I firmly believe in involving students in projects that will allow them to work with other students and professionals outside of their majors to see how the creative process flows in many directions. It immerses them in a way of thinking that will strengthen their creative nature when it comes to problem solving through design.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
Design mindfully. Be willing to listen to your client with an open mind and be ready to educate them on how they might impact the environment no matter the size of the project.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?
I am a strong advocate for restoring our environment in any way possible. I am passionate about several conservation movements, but know better than to stretch myself thin. As an avid surfer, I do outreach via social media on saving our oceans. Locally, I raise awareness for bat conservation and work as often as possible with Bat Conservation International, which is located here in Austin. Their website is http://www.batcon.org/.