University Establishes Brettell Award in the Arts in Honor of Educator

Dr. Richard Brettell
Dr. Richard Brettell

The University of Texas at Dallas, with a generous gift from philanthropist Margaret McDermott, has announced the creation of the Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, a biennial honor recognizing established artists in any medium.

The award will be bestowed upon artists whose body of work demonstrates a lifetime of achievement in their field. Winners will receive a $150,000 prize and will participate in a campus residency where they will spend time interacting with faculty and students.

“Dr. Richard Brettell is recognized worldwide for his prolific scholarship, for his charismatic lectures that have introduced thousands to great art, and for his leadership in creating numerous cooperative organizations in which scholars and artists can collaborate in new and rewarding ways,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president at UT Dallas. “Margaret McDermott has made a visionary gift that honors her esteemed friend and colleague Rick Brettell, while simultaneously providing a major new enrichment of the cultural life of UT Dallas and the greater Dallas community.”

The campus residency will provide award recipients with access to the innovative work being conducted at UT Dallas in the arts, science and technology. Recipients will have an opportunity to connect with the students and faculties across the full spectrum of the University’s research centers and academic departments. The residency will include a major public lecture along with seminars, faculty round-tables, and extensive interactions with students and with members of the larger Dallas arts community.


Details will follow after an official announcement of the awardee in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday, April 9.

The award may be given to an artist working in any art form including performance, literary and visual arts. The inaugural recipient of the award has been selected by McDermott and Brettell, and will be announced Sunday, April 9.

The award honors Brettell, the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair. One of the world’s foremost authorities on Impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930, Brettell is also the founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas.

“Following the leadership of Mrs. McDermott, the arts have come to play an increasingly important role at UT Dallas.” Brettell said. “This award will further emphasize that role, and ensure that artists in all mediums — architects, painters, actors, photographers, dancers, digital artists, choreographers, poets, novelists — the sky is the limit — will regularly visit UT Dallas and the Dallas metroplex, enhancing the links between the city and our university and inspiring our faculty, staff, and students. It is an immense honor that she suggested that this award, which is modeled on the one honoring her late husband at MIT, be named after me.”

McDermott’s prior contributions to UT Dallas include the McDermott Suite in McDermott Library, the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program, many major endowed professorships, the ongoing UT Dallas Campus Enhancement Project, and the Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellows Program.


Brettell Award Events

The first recipient of the Brettell Award in the Arts will be featured at two lectures and a public forum:

Tuesday, April 11, 4 p.m.
Lecture at UT Dallas

Wednesday, April 12, 5 p.m.
Public forum, followed by reception
at Nasher Sculpture Center

Thursday, April 13, 2 p.m.
Lecture at UT Dallas

ATEC Undergrad’s Artistic Pursuits Lead to Game Industry Scholarship

Heidi Neunhoffer
Heidi Neunhoffer

Midway through her freshman year studying communication design at the University of North Texas, Heidi Neunhoffer came across UT Dallas in a publication listing the University among 100 other schools deemed the best in animation education.

She said the arts and technology program, in particular drew her attention.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” Neunhoffer said. “I love observing the world, watching movies, playing games, thinking about stories, but for a while, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with art. I just wanted to draw and maybe tell stories. I really loved animation, but I never thought about who made it. Then, in high school, I found out a girl a few classes above me was going to Cal Arts to become an animator. She’s a great artist, and she really inspires me. I realized that if I really wanted to, I could go into animation too.”

After some careful consideration, she decided to transfer to UT Dallas to pursue her passion.

Now a senior, Neunhoffer has received the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation Scholarship, which supports students pursuing careers in the computer and video game industries. She was among 30 recipients representing institutions such as Duke University, Brown University and the University of Southern California.

“Institutions like UT Dallas rightly recognize the value in preparing students for careers in the video game industry, meeting a rising demand among students and eventual employers,” said Anastasia Staten, executive director of the foundation. “The ESA Foundation is committed to supporting this growth and has provided nearly 300 women and minority students with scholarships to pursue video game-related degrees, giving them not only the opportunity to follow their dreams, but also creating a pipeline of skilled and well-educated job candidates for the video game industry and other careers in STEM-related fields.”

The $3,000 scholarship will help Neunhoffer as she wraps up a fruitful undergraduate career.

Most recently, she had a hand in the preproduction of the annual short film created by the animation studio class. Neunhoffer had input with the script and storyboarding the project, which is in development.

“Heidi is a great example of the type of student who can excel within ATEC,” senior associate dean and associate professor Todd Fechter said. “She has the ability to take classroom concepts and expand them into something greater. Recently, she took it upon herself to create her own short story, complete with designs and storyboards. She created a nice presentation book and showed it to well-known industry professionals at this year’s CTN Animation Expo. They loved it! I’m not surprised. She is one of the most talented and dedicated students I’ve met.”

Neunhoffer has been hungry for opportunities to practice. She said preproduction design classes, taught by Fechter, allow her to hone her craft.

Neunhoffer also has served as a student assistant in the photography department since she began at UT Dallas. She helps with digital printing, mixing darkroom chemicals and assisting with maintenance of the Comer Collection of Photography.

She participates in Comet-Con’s Artist Alley every year, and is working on her ATEC Honors Capstone project.

“The ATEC program is really great because you get to choose what you want to focus on,” she said. “Going to school here has also helped me meet lots of people with similar interests, and it’s really given me time and resources to develop as an artist.”

ATEC Student Serves Winning T-Shirt Design for Second Straight Year

Fayna Zeng
Fayna Zeng’s design will appear on T-shirts worn by American Southwest Conference champions in 2016-17.

It’s no surprise to faculty members in theSchool of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication that one of their students has won a regional design competition for the second year in a row. The graphic design created by UT Dallas sophomore Fayna Zeng will be used on 2016-17 American Southwest Conference championship T-shirts after a vote of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Zeng is the first two-time winner of the annual ASC Championship T-Shirt Design Challenge after her winning design last season. She is a double major in arts and technology and emerging media and communication.

“Fayna’s winning design this year is impressive, and it reflects our school’s consistent, yet innovative, approach toward design curriculum,” said Dr. Jillian Round, a clinical assistant professor of arts and technology. “Her designs are well-thought out through use of color, shape, texture, space, form, unity, balance, hierarchy, emphasis and contrast. I am very proud of her accomplishment.”

Zeng said she wanted to try something different from last year’s winning design. She chose a palette of blue, black and white for the 2016 gray shirt. Her design has a Western feel, with stars that are reminiscent of a sheriff’s badge, as well as reflecting Texas and the conference, and a general standard of excellence. Swirling ribbons symbolize the finish line in a race.

“I wanted to change it up a bit and get out of my comfort zone a bit and not have it be perfectly aligned like last year’s design,” Zeng said. “The light blue stands out, but doesn’t clash. I also like the use of drop shadow and fade-in colors to make it stand out on a gray background.”

Her designs are well thought-out through use of color, shape, texture, space, form, unity, balance, hierarchy, emphasis and contrast. I am very proud of her accomplishment.

Dr. Jillian Round,
clinical assistant professor of arts and technology

Round said Zeng’s design is a textbook example of what she’s learned in her design principles classes at UT Dallas, where she’s studied typography, graphic design, logos, information design, color theory and composition.

The design will be displayed on the front of the short-sleeved T-shirts that all conference champions receive after their victories.

As a member of the UT Dallas volleyball team, which won its conference title last year, Zeng is hoping she gets to wear her own T-shirt design again this year.

“It was a good feeling. It was fun to see my teammates and our men’s soccer team wearing my design after winning conference titles last year. I really wanted to win the design competition again to represent my school outside of volleyball,” Zeng said.

The contest is open to all students of ASC schools. Zeng’s design is the third-consecutive winning artwork by a UT Dallas student. As a senior golfer and emerging media and communication major, Dylan Carroll won for his design in 2014.

UT Dallas students keep winning, Round said, because they not only learn theoretically sound design principles, they also learn how to put the theory into practice using design problem-solving techniques.

“It’s not a mystery to us here why she won. She did it right,” Round said. “Good design is just nice to look at. I cannot say enough how proud we are of her.”

ATEC Professor Roger Malina Receives Honorary Degree

Roger Malina
Roger Malina

Arts and technology professor Roger Malina has been awarded an honorary degree from the Technical University of Valencia in Spain for his work promoting and advancing research at the intersection of art, science and technology.

The Spanish university cited his role as director of the ArtSciLab as a contributing factor. As a transdisciplinary research lab, the ArtSciLab focuses on innovative projects such as the podcast platform Creative Disturbance.

For 25 years, Malina has been involved with the Leonardo organizations, which his father founded in San Francisco and Paris. The organizations strive to promote work that explores the interactions between the arts and sciences, as well as between the arts and new technologies. Malina currently serves as the executive editor of the Leonardo journal, published by MIT Press.

Malina earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

EMAC Professor Earns System Teaching Award

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight

Dr. Kim Knight, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication, has received the 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awardfor her work and innovation in the classroom.

Knight has been a professor at UT Dallas since 2010, but her first foray into teaching was more than 14 years ago at California State University, Northridge as a teaching assistant under the tutelage of English professor Dr. Irene Clark.

It was there that Knight learned many of the strategies she still uses today.

“From the very beginning, Dr. Clark helped me frame the classroom as a space that should place students and their thinking at the center,” Knight said. “The classroom is a space where students arrive with a variety of experiences and learning styles; where their work is process-based and broken down into small steps with opportunities to revise and improve; and as a space with political and social dimensions that cannot be ignored.”

Knight received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Cal State Northridge, and she said her interest in new media and digital technology stems, in part, from her love of science fiction and fantasy literature.

“It wasn’t much of a stretch to go from literature about technology to writing that used digital technology,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I was excited by the empowering aspects of networked technologies and their potential for opening up access, promoting amateur production, flattening hierarchies, and creating a more just and equitable world. My interest is in studying new media in all of its facets so that we can fulfill those promises.”

Knight’s work at UT Dallas focuses on how these objectives intersect with issues in new media such as privacy, ownership and diversity.

As an inherently dynamic subject, new media and technology can have its challenges for teachers, but Knight said what’s most exciting about the field is that working scholars and students are helping to define it.

“And yet, it resists ever being fully defined,” she said. “It also means that you can never keep up with everything that is developing on a daily basis. This affords the rich opportunity to invite students to bring their own knowledge of those developments into the classroom.”

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight leads a Fashioning Circuits workshop at a STEAM-focused summer camp at Eastfield College. (Photo by Lauren Shafer)

Some of her most popular courses touch on viral media, writing in digital spaces and understanding how text, image and sound are used in digital spaces.

She said her favorite course to teach is Fashioning Circuits, which also serves as a research blog and digital humanities project.

“The grounding in social and cultural theory helps students understand the scholarly implications of something that some assume is a frivolous topic: fashion,” she said. “Fashion is about bodies and about culture. When you connect it to technology, it helps to make explicit that technology is also about bodies and culture.”

The course, which usually has a few students who don’t consider themselves creative or coders at the beginning, is an opportunity to explore the expressive possibilities of sewing, coding and electronics as media, she said.

The project also works with community partners to develop programming to introduce nonprogrammers to coding in a humanities aspect.

Knight, who received her PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said her goal is to help her students develop into well-rounded and educated citizens who are ready to be critical participants in a democratic society.

“If I focus on helping students understand one technological platform, it does not serve them well,” she said. “Instead, it is important to help them develop an understanding of how technology, community, power and communication intersect so that they can ethically engage with the technology of tomorrow, regardless of what form that takes.”


Knight Examines Digital Viruses, Public Anxiety

The perceived threat of a computer virus attack can keep us in a constant state of anxiety, according to Dr. Kim Knight.

In her latest article, the EMAC professor contends that a preoccupation with living in a virus-free digital world affects how consumers behave online and offline.

Knight said that when people want to avoid a disaster — like a flu outbreak — from reoccurring, they try to identify and address all future scenarios to eliminate that possibility.

It’s a concept known as “premediation,” originally theorized by Dr. Richard Grusin, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as a collective experience with individual effects prompted, in part, by media and the way it handles outbreaks.

Knight studied the concept in the context of various apps, such as Google’s Flu Trends, FluNearYou and Sickweather, which track the spread of illness on a regional level using crowdsourced data from users or mentions of illness on social media.

While these digital tools exist to help mitigate anxieties over viruses, Knight said they can still be a source of “premediative” behavior. By constantly requiring new information and requesting updates from users, the software acts as a feedback loop, always reminding users of the possibility of infection.

Internet users and people who use illness-tracking apps are willing to share computing information and personal data with anti-viral technologies to assuage their anxiety, which could have unintended consequences.

Because the user surrenders ownership, the data can and will be exploited, she said. For Knight, the minimal public health benefits do not outweigh the privacy concerns.

Read her entire article atelectronic book review, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the arts, sciences and humanities through the lens of emerging digital media.

ATEC Professor’s Exhibition Named Best in Dallas

The Dallas Observer has selected DreamArchitectonics, an audio-video installation by ATEC professor Frank Dufour and new media artist Kristin Lee Dufour, as the best art exhibition of 2015.


Best Art Exhibit

DreamArchitectonics at Dallas Contemporary


The installation was created by artistic duo Kristin Lee & Frank Dufour of Agence5970 an independent laboratory dedicated to conceptual art, using predominately sound, as well as image, exploring concepts emerging at the conjunction of perception and representation and of Time as a structural support of expression.

View the full artist statement on the Agence5970 website.


ATEC Faculty Art Exhibition Among Best of 2014

Arts and Technology Professor Frank Dufour’s DREAMARCHITECTONICS exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary was named among the 10 Best Art Exhibitions of 2014.  The Best of Dallas® is presented annually by the Dallas Observer.



Dr. Frank Dufour
Dr. Frank Dufour

DREAMARCHITECTONICS is an interactive audio-visual installation that aims to infuse into the space a state of reverie or meditation in order to explore the structure of dreams.  Entering this space, the participant is immersed in a sphere of controlled quietness created by aerial active noise-cancellation.

Within this space, a book offers extracts of poetic texts, evocative of dreams. When read aloud, the chosen text is analyzed according to the acoustic and temporal signature of the reader’s voice, thus controlling the visual and musical output.  The resulting audio-visual sequence is designed to reveal the structural connections among the images suggested by the text.

The tuning between the system and the participant forms a syntonic experience similar to the effort of the remembrance of dreams.  The work seeks to present this fragile and fugacious sensation of movements in images, sounds and meanings occurring in dreams and attempts to render perceivable the altered experience of Time, characteristic of the dream-state.

The video above has been remixed for online platforms and diffusion on stereophonic systems. This version does not fully render the spacial acoustic dimension of the original installation.

ATEC Program Receives EDGE Award


EDGE is the Economic Development, Growth & Expansion initiative of the Richardson Economic Development Partnership (REDP). Each year, REDP, the Richardson Chamber of Commerce and the Richardson rotaries recognize Richardson companies and organizations that have achieved extraordinary success and/or made a significant investment in Richardson.

T1503he new Richardson EDGE awards Luncheon (formerly the Business & Industry Awards event) will recognize Richardson businesses and organizations with seven awards in the following categories: Commercial Real Estate Project, Community Service, Environmental, International, Newcomer,
Public/Non-Profit/Education, and Richardson Loyalty.

FrightLite to be Screened at Student Filmmakers Association

FrightLite, an animated short film created by Arts and Technology animation students and faculty, has been selected for screening at the SMU Student Filmmakers Association Spring Film Festival. The film depicts a boy who grapples to overcome his fear of monsters.

(L-R) Arts and Technology masters students Vincent Lo with fall 2013 graduates Sarah Wright, Greg Slagel, Ashley Hackett and Chelsea Suarez at the USA Film Festival. The students participated in a two-semester course to create the animated film.

The event will take place at the Mockingbird Station Angelika Film Center on Tuesday, May 6 from 7-9 pm. A question-and-answer session will follow the films.

Earlier in the year, the film pre-screened at the Self Medicated Film Festival (RxSM) in Austin, TX. RxSM, which takes place each year alongside South by Southwest, features boundary-expanding storytelling that falls outside of the mainstream. 

FrightLite also screened in April at the USA Film Festival, where it was a finalist in the National Short Film and Video Competition. The USA Film Festival festival, now in its 36th year, encourages excellence in the film and video arts.

Animation Program Gets Top Marks Second Year in a Row

For the second year in a row, the UT Dallas Arts and Technology (ATEC) animation program has been recognized by Animation Career Review among the best program nationally and regionally.

Animation Career Review cite the ATEC program as  the number two animation school program in the southwest and 20th nationally.  The criteria used in making this list consists of academic reputation, admission selectivity, depth and breadth of the program and faculty, value as it relates to tuition and indebtedness, and geographic location.

10-25-13 UTD ATEC-81 (1)

According to the Animation Career Review, “Animation programs on the cutting edge are often those that seek to bridge the gap between technology and art, and UT Dallas’ Arts and Technology Department is no different. What is unique is the way in which the program combines an array of faculty and students with varying interests- from performance artists and gamers to programmers and designers. The B.A. in Arts & Technology is tailored to each student and includes animation, interactive games, virtualworlds, sound design and more. An M.A. in the department works similarly, as does the MFA and PhD programs.”

Animation courses in Arts and Technology continue to produce an array of outstanding work by students who are guided by faculty that have been heavily involved in the production of both feature films and pieces which push the boundaries of the industry.