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CODING WORKSHOP FOR ARTISTS

Adult artists learn to program lights through
hands-on experiences tied to their personal
art-making practices and participate in creative
confidence-building exercises.

Partner Organization: CU Denver Inworks

Creators and fans of immersive experiences gathered in Denver in Fall 2018 for the first ever Denver Immersive Summit. During this summit the community of artists, entrepreneurs, technologists, and storytellers identified collective needs. One of the biggest community needs was having more opportunities for skill development. My friends and fellow creatives Bryan Costanza and Sarah Parsons and I  decided decided to address this community need as we have collectively have a depth of experience in and passion for electronics, fabrication, design, art making, and teaching and consider ourselves a part of the immersive community. 

We began by asking the community what they wanted:

Responses to a survey we sent out showed that 60% of respondents considered themselves absolute beginners when it comes to experiences with creative technologies such as programming electronics. 76% were interested in learning more about the basics of electronics and coding. 

Having identified this need: an intro to coding and electronics class for absolute beginners who are a part of the immersive community, Bryan, Sarah, and I carefully crafted a two part workshop focused on skill building and building connections to artist's existing practices. For this workshop we chose to focus on programming lights as lights are an essential component of immersive experiences and can be used by artists to tell stories, set moods, provide feedback, and more. Additionally, writing code to control lights has a low barrier to entry and high ceilings once the basics are learned. 

Snapshots from the creative coding workshop graciously hosted by Inworks: 

 

 

We designed this workshop to balance creative expression and tinkering with nitty gritty experiences in downloading coding environments and connecting hardware. Conceptual discussions about light as an art material were paired with hands-on lessons in soldering and breadboarding. 

Students experiment with combining lights and physical materials:

A two day workshop is a great start, but we recognized that that's not enough time to become a proficient and confident creative technologist. We developed resources for students to take home and refer back to that were specific to this workshop and addressed common pain points for beginner coders. The worksheet below broke down all of the components of a piece of example code that was provided to students and explained them without using jargon or assuming a level of previous programming experience. 

By the end of the two part workshop participants who had never coded before were animating strips of lights and incorporating lights into their existing art projects which they brought in to share with their classmates.

One student remarked "I've taken intro to Arduino type classes before and this course just made more sense".

That was our aim, to provide an experience that made sense to the community we hoped to serve. 

Dig Deeper

Neuron lights

Light mixer