YSU Hosts Interactive Art Exhibit

By Spencer Curcillo

Youngstown State University’s chapter of the Interaction Design Association is displaying an interactive art exhibit in the Solomon Gallery of Bliss Hall from Oct. 20-30.

The #InteractYO exhibit is open to all students during the day, free of cost. There are also specific events in the gallery which students are welcome to attend. These events include a demonstration and discussion of interactive design on Wednesday, Oct. 29 from 12-1 p.m., as well as a closing party on Thursday, Oct. 30 at 5 p.m.

The show features a variety of work from current and former YSU students.

RJ Thomson, assistant professor of graphic and interactive design, founded YSU’s branch of IxDA and is responsible for the current exhibit, following positive feedback from the Youngstown Business Incubator.

“The YBI portfolio companies love what we’re doing up here,” Thomson said. “They want to invest in our students as freelancers, as part-time employees, as interns, as full-time employees. The comments they had about the work we showed them this past summer really inspired me. They felt like we were inventors and that’s so profound for an artist to hear. To be able to create something that did not exist before and it actually have meaning and depth to it.”

Thomson hopes to be able to connect students with opportunities in the Youngstown area.

“I believe that our students should live, work, play and continue to learn in Youngstown,” he said. “I’m trying to cultivate a very specific skillset that can be utilized by startup companies down at YBI or any other startup or incubator companies in the region. I want our people to stay here and reinvest in the place they grew up in, using the new skillsets that they have.”

After the exhibit leaves YSU, it will be going to several locations in the area including YBI and some local high schools. Thomson hopes this is a good chance for students’ work to get exposure.

“Let’s show the world what we’re capable of here, what we’re doing already,” he said. “Then let’s take this show on the road, and go down to YBI — which we’ve already been to with this type of work — and impress even more people.”

David Tamulonis, YSU student and IxDA member, wants people to know that the exhibit itself is not typical of most people’s mental image of an “art exhibit.”

“It’s not like a normal show you would see in an art gallery,” Tamulonis said. “It’s very practical. … There’s a lot of really cool stuff in terms of inventive work. It’s just a very different gallery show. Even if you’re not into art per se, you might be into this. A lot of STEM people have come to check out the user interface designs and such.”

Interactive design is a broad category that includes everything from operating systems to smart phone applications to video games.

Brandi Takas, YSU student and IxDA member, believes that thinking about interactive design from a user perspective is one of the great challenges that artists face.

“It takes a lot of work when you’re thinking of user interfaces and operating systems, because you have to think about how people are going to interact with them and how they’re going to work,” she said.

Thomson encourages students to come and observe the creative work hanging in the gallery.

“Our students are using design as a conduit for invention,” Thomson said. “If you want to see completely unique, original, meaningful ideas that can be applied to every day devices, this is a place to do that.”

Thomson also encourages anyone with an interest in interactive design to contact him directly. He’s very passionate about it and always willing to discuss it.