The intersection of art and technology – Albright College

The intersection of art and technology

by Susan Shelly

If it can be dreamed, it can be created through technology.

Dave Kaul, M.F.A., assistant professor of art and computer science, found where he wanted to build a career at an early age. Just 12, Kaul wrote a text adventure game on a computer in the early 1980s.

“I was doing mostly watercolor when I was much younger — before I even had the computer — so I enjoyed art,” Kaul says.

“When I got a RadioShack color computer that hooked up to a television, art and technology melted together for me. The computer had very clunky sprite graphics, so I coded and experimented with different digital shapes — and understand, this is without a mouse or trackpad; just typing — but I thought it was the coolest thing. I realized that I wanted to always be exactly where art and tech meet.”

That experience was transformative for the Connecticut native. As an undergraduate student at Syracuse University, Kaul developed an award-winning animation called “Power of Dreams” that was so widely and well received that it was featured at a conference for an international community of computer graphics professionals.

“Power of Dreams became very popular,” he explains. “I went on Canadian TV for an interview, and it also got me into Industrial Light & Magic — George Lucas’s special effects company. During my interview for an internship there, I was sitting across the table from George, but everybody urged me not to talk to him, so I didn’t.”

Instead, Kaul let his unique ability to bring ideas to life through his use of technology do all the talking. Kaul earned the visual effects internship at Industrial Light & Magic and another one the following summer at Oscar-winning MetroLight Studios.

As an intern at MetroLight Studios, Kaul served as an animator on the Mask CD-ROM and worked on a Dodge television commercial that premiered during the Super Bowl in 1995.

“I was in grad school at Ohio State at the time watching the game with my friends and I said excitedly, ‘Look, there’s my commercial!’ They said ‘cool’ and went back to doing their own thing,” Kaul recalls. “I realized that as cool as computer graphics was, for me, teaching would be more rewarding. I had been teaching a class and I really liked it, especially seeing what the students came up with.”

But before fully making the leap to the classroom, Kaul designed and produced a number of Fisher-Price toys in his role as a digital product designer.

Now preparing a new generation of designers, Kaul says he enjoys teaching beginners while also coaching advanced students, and making sure that no one feels stuck or unable to move forward in the expansive field.

“My excitement for teaching has never dulled,” Kaul says. “What I like most is seeing students work to the best of their abilities and accomplish things they never thought they could.”

After teaching visual effects at the Savannah College of Art and Design and serving as a professor of visual arts at Florida A&M University, Kaul joined Albright College this fall.

“I loved the school when I interviewed,” he explains. “It’s a small, liberal arts school and the people I met during my interview — Jeffrey Lentz, Brian Kell, Mark Baldridge, Mike D’Errico and Matt Garrison — felt right. This is a great fit.”

He jumped right in to collaborate with a student on an Albright Creative Research Experience that crosses the boundaries of computer science and fashion.

“It is an interim internship to create a virtual fashion runway for the metaverse, using digital humans,” Kaul explains. “That’s just one of the cool things we are doing right now.”

As Kaul knows, just like he envisioned as a 12-year-old building new worlds at his computer keyboard, if it can be dreamed, it can be created through technology — even illustrious and rewarding careers.