UNM-Taos digital media is at the crossroads of art and technology

‘Technology is rapidly changing, and many careers will appear that we haven’t even thought of yet’

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The University of New Mexico-Taos (UNM-Taos) digital media program, established in 2014, was designed to offer a solid foundation in technology, a rich creative background in the arts and the communication skills necessary to convey ideas in the digital realm.

Its current two-year associate program leads directly toward a degree in media arts at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque.

“Students who complete our program in digital media arts will develop the skills to pursue careers in graphic design, publishing, advertising, web production, film, animation, gaming, augmented reality, 3-D modeling, television and more,” said Peter Walker, the digital media arts department chair.

Unique program

The associate degree offers a wide range of classes, from mass communication to video production. It also includes aftereffects animation, the history of film and a number of special workshops — particularly on camera skills. 

“In the fall of 2017, our cohort model begins with 15 students that will move through the [associate] degree program together,” said Walker. “Students will take the two-year sequence of media classes together, which will create a team environment. Short film projects will be made by students helping each other with scripts, acting, camera, lights, editing and directing. We will be simulating the real world of creative collaborations, working in teams, problem solving and maximizing resources to get the best possible results.”

Completed semester projects will be presented to the community in the form of student film festivals and multimedia presentations.

“All of these projects will be packaged as part of the student’s reel and used to help them get paid jobs upon graduation,” Walker said. “Technology is rapidly changing, and many careers will appear that we haven’t even thought of yet. We want our students to be ready with the skills necessary to be the drivers of new technology and trends, rather than simply consumers.”

Department chair

Walker earned his master’s degree from the University of Oregon and a director’s certificate from the Asian Academy of Film and Television in India. He has worked in India, Bhutan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, China, Bali, Costa Rica and Yucatan, Mexico.

The filmmaker, teacher and martial artist was inspired to create the digital arts media program in Taos because of the current high demand for skilled media makers.

“Small businesses need websites, social media platforms, videos, motion graphics and assistance with managing the complex modern technology trends,” he said. “There is also a high demand for storytelling that is authentic and meaningful. Our program is answering these needs by training students to create media that can be both artistic and practical. All our instructors are passionate media professionals who enjoy passing on their knowledge and experience to future generations.”

Upcoming workshops

UNM-Taos’ dual-credit students recently won the Canon Filmmakers Challenge in Albuquerque and have forged a strong partnership with the company.

As a result, the digital media arts program will offer a “Canon Camera Workshop” that is part of its “DMA Mixers” program.

The first mixer will take place March 3 and March 4. The March 3 workshop, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., is free. “It includes cutting-edge camera demos, music, short films, DJs, mingling and pizza,” said Walker. The March 4 workshop, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $5 for UNM-Taos students, who may trade volunteer duty in exchange for the fee. For the general public, the fee is $10. Cameras, instruction and lunch will be provided.

“This will be a hands-on workshop,” Walker said. “Participants will learn how to shoot with cutting-edge cameras.” 

Walker said the workshop will be taught by Matthew Carman, a Canon representative from Denver, Colorado. “Carman is an accomplished adventure cinematographer for NBC Sports, Tecomate Wildlife Systems, Food Network, the Weather Channel and other venues,” he said.

Other mixers are scheduled for April 7 and May 5.

“These opportunities are a great way to boost local production skills and get firsthand experience with cutting-edge camera technology,” Walker said.

To register, call Walker at (575) 737-6215 or email him at pedrowalker@unm.edu.

People interested in enrolling in the program for the fall can visit taos.unm.edu for more information.

The program is currently accepting applications for scholarship stipends to help cover the cost of studies.

“We have excellent partnerships with Sony, Canon, the New Mexico Film Office, the Taos Ski Valley and many local businesses,” Walker said. “The UNM-Taos advisers are ready to answer any questions and sign you up for our program today.”

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