Doug Dempster Speaks at SXSW on the Future of Arts Education

Doug Dempster, Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, spoke at SXSW to convey to the world how UT is transforming arts education.

A fine arts college traditionally consists of dance, orchestra, painting, acting, and band. If you look back at the curriculum 80 to 100 years ago, it would not be much different from this. However, our culture has moved beyond what it was 100 years ago. The U.S. census says many creatives in the workforce are working in design, but images of someone on a computer making something don’t satisfy our expectations for the idea of fine arts.

Dempster posed the question, “as the larger culture of the arts and entertainment shifts around our college, how do we respond?” He referenced Matthew Arnold’s opinion that arts are not only about entertainment but are about ennobling us. UT’s motto is not merely “what starts here changes the world”, the motto is truly found in the seal that says, “the cultivated mind is the guardian of society.” Thus, the arts are meant to cultivate us.

Dempster discussed what is happening at the University of Texas at Austin to further the idea of arts education and prepare creatives for the workforce. The most ambitious program the College of Fine Arts is growing the School of Design and Creative Technologies. Leading this program is Doreen Lorenzo, the longtime CEO of frog and an industry leader in design. The new school is offering a B.S. in arts and entertainment technologies. These programs fall right on the boundary of technology and art with curriculums including disciplines such as game design and design thinking.

The goal is to be aware of where students want to be in their lives and their careers while also thinking about how to get them there. These efforts are reflected in the companies UT has employed to teach students with real-life case studies. With industry and company involvement, students can be one step closer to where they hope to be in the future.

Dempster and UT are making the effort to expand the arts education and prepare students for the professional world. Although these programs are in development, the university will test and measure to determine what’s working. The core purpose is to transition students seamlessly from college to career.


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