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Collaboration Is the Name of the Game at 2016 Spring Show

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Students mingle while awaiting to show their work to industry guests at the 2016 Spring Show Student Showcase. Photo by Bob Toy.

Industry professionals were impressed by the quality of the work and the ways students from diverse schools worked together

Business cards were flying on opening day of Academy of Art University’s Spring Show Student Showcase on Monday, May 23, as representatives from companies like Oculus, GoPro, Restoration Hardware and Industrial Light and Magic explored the vast range of work on view at 2225 Jerrold Avenue. From exquisite sculptures, jaw dropping illustrations, intricate architectural models, and dazzling automotive prototypes, the Academy’s annual showcase of the best work coming out of its 23 schools was certainly impressive. But what struck visitors the most wasn’t only the fine craftsmanship and high level of innovation but the collaborative effort behind many of the works on view.

“Seeing people from different disciplines coming together to make things was really exciting for me,” said Naughty Dog Game Designer James Cooper. “I was chatting with a composer [Filipe Leitao] who worked on a couple games projects, some of the animation stuff, and he’s been working with some film guys—you see these different connections going on in different areas throughout the university.”

Adam Ferguson, an associate creative director at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, who earned an M.F.A. from the School of Advertising in 2010 was similarly impressed. “When I was a student, it became part of our curriculum to work with other disciplines in the school and I’m really seeing how that is coming to fruition. The integration between motion graphics and photography and illustration—it has really come a long way.”

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

One aspect of the show where collaboration was most vividly apparent was in the virtual reality genre. Representing a major aspect of this year’s event, VR projects took center stage at the Schools of Motion Pictures & Television, Game Development and Multimedia Communications’ sections. But the most surprising use of the technology was on view at the School of Landscape Architecture’s booth where Youngwook Jeon (M.F.A. ‘16) showcased a virtual tour of his design for a public space in Hayes Valley. 

After donning an Oculus Rift, visitors could walk up ramps, look over railings, and pause by a waterfall in Jeon’s incredibly realistic VR presentation. The result of four years of intense collaborative work with the Schools of Animation and Game Development, Jeon said he’s proud of the bridge he formed between LAN and the other departments. “Our school is one of the most famous schools for animation and games, and to have these two departments in one school is really rare. I said, ‘I have to utilize these resources; this is my chance to do this.’”

Meanwhile, VR was creating a buzz over at the MPTV booth with representatives from industries as diverse as real estate and wine making grinning about the possibilities. Impressed by a 360-degree VR video depicting the making of a set for Offsprung—MPTV M.F.A. student Rain Zheng’s film about a girl who gives birth to bunnies—representatives from E&J Gallo Winery were eager to hire.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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“They want to use VR to show customers where the wine comes from and how it’s made,” MPTV Executive Director James Egan excitedly explained, “and they want to hire him and all his roommates,” he added, gesturing toward Baichuan Li (MPTV M.F.A. ‘16), who helped produce the video with students from the School of Animation & Visual Effects, who he also happens to live with.

Offering an unprecedented opportunity for businesses across the spectrum to review the best work by the Academy’s best students, the Spring Show opening day Industry Preview provides a platform for impromptu portfolio reviews and private interviews between recent graduates and industry reps. School of Illustration graduates Yaqing Chen (M.F.A. ‘16) and Jess Hong (B.F.A. ‘16) met with Marvel in the venue’s upstairs office spaces, while other graduates interviewed with companies like Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.

Meanwhile, down on the main floor, Andy Shearer, senior design recruiter for Adidas, refueled with a coffee after exploring the Schools of Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Architecture and Interior Architecture & Design’s sections. “We’ve got so many different flavors of design at Adidas that this sort of event really becomes a one-stop shop for us,” said Shearer, who was visiting the Spring Show for the fourth time and is hoping to hire an IND grad he just met for a job in Adidas’ Korea office.

Graduates hoping to land a job in India were pleased to make the acquaintance of Rajiv Chilaka. The Academy alum and founder of Green Gold Animation in Hyderabad visited the Spring Show not only to scope out the work and meet graduating students, but to accept an honorary doctorate. “I think the student work doesn’t look like student work, it looks like professional work,” he said. “Honestly, I’m spellbound.”

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.