By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — From movies to video games to photographs, students from 15 area high schools put their creativity on display at Niskayuna High School for the 2017 Capital Region Media Arts Festival.
Nine of the 15 schools sent delegations to the festival, bringing a total of 162 high-schoolers to the Niskayuna campus.
The festival kicked off with a keynote speech from Matthew McElligott, author, illustrator and chairman of the art and design department at The Sage Colleges in Albany.
McElligott spoke about the importance of the arts, not as separate from science and technology, but as integral to all disciplines.
“Take out your cellphone,” McElligott told the audience. “There are artists’ influences in your cellphone.”
McElligott described the roots of modern communication and technology, starting with Joseph Marie Jacquard, a French weaver in the late 18th century. Jacquard is credited with automating the silk loom, a sort of early computer.
Communications pioneer Samuel Morse may be known for inventing Morse code and the telegraph, but his idea was borne out of tragedy. As a painter, Morse spent time plying his trade away from home, painting portraits of politicians, aristocrats and more. Upon receiving word that his wife had died, Morse decided to figure out a way to increase the speed of communication.
Taking his cue from music, accomplished pianist and inventor of the modern telephone, Alexander Graham Bell used the resonance he heard in his piano as inspiration for the phone.
Eadweard Muybridge was a photographer. He was also the father of the motion picture.
Actor Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil patented the idea of frequency hopping, an idea that led to WiFi and Bluetooth technology.
“Is it a coincidence that these people were also artists?” asked McElligott. “I don’t think so.”
If creativity and technical innovation go together like Bob Ross and a paint palette, the festival gave students a chance to showcase both.
Entries ranged from still-life photography to digital graphic design to 3D printing to video-game design.
Art teachers from each school selected works for the show and all the pieces were on display for judging.
Thomas Santelli, associate professor of art at The College of Saint Rose and Sage Colleges art professor William Fillmore judged the two-dimensional media.
“I think we can forget that high school students are people, too, not just kids we want to keep in a protected bubble,” said Fillmore. “Their take on the world is no less valid and it’s fun to see their work and potential at this level. It’s a momentous opportunity.”
Video arts were also showcased. Students submitted videos in any of the nine different categories. The audience watched animated submissions, comedic entries, documentary shorts and more.
“Reviewing all these submissions reaffirmed for me the power of media,” said Niskayuna media arts teacher Stephen Honicki.
Mary Ellen Iatropoles, Spark Media Project’s education director, judged the films.
Niskayuna students took top honors in many categories including:
— Photography: still life or objects.
— Photography: abstraction.
— Photography: other.
— Film: narrative drama.
— Film: narrative comedy.
— Experimental or video art.
— Outstanding directing.
Click here for a full list of winners.