EDUCATION WITH A CREATIVE TWIST
As featured in Tech Magazine April 2022, Issue 105 / Movers and Makers
CTCA aims to help students build sustainable career paths within the creative industries, contributing creatively to society at large. Academic head Francois Jonker tells us more.
Words Jonanne Carew
EDUCATION IS IN FRANCOIS JONKER’S FAMILY. HAVING COME FROM A LONG LINE OF EDUCATORS, HE WAS DRAWN TO THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF EDUCATION SINCE HE WAS A STUDENT HIMSELF. It’s fitting then that he co-founded the Cape Town Creative Academy in Woodstock, Cape Town and is currently the institution’s academic head. In this role, Jonker is tasked with making sure that CTCA offers the best possible curricula, using the most appropriate and impactful teaching approaches.
We chat to him about his passion for education, as well as his love and respect for art and design and how all of this comes together in the work he does everyday.
Tell us about the CTCA?
The Creative Academy is a unique, private higher education institution that aims to empower students to build sustainable career paths within the creative industries and help them to develop authentic ways of contributing creatively to society at large. The Creative Academy was established in 2012 by a group of academics who identified the need for a different type of art/design school – a school that can marry the value of creative, critical and professional thinking in a manner that is student-centred and grounded in a sense of care. Our student community comprises a diverse mix of South African students from all over the country, as well as international students from all over the world.
What courses do you offer?
The Creative Academy currently offers four distinct Bachelor’s degrees; in Contemporary Art, Communication Design, Interaction Design and Motion Design. These programmes each address specific sectors within the broader creative industries, yet also allow for moments of cross-pollination between them. All of these degree courses share a rooting in a subject we call Contextual Studies – a course in critical thinking that aims to help students critically examine and position themselves within an ever-changing world. These critical inquiries are paralleled with a more focussed look at business/ professional practice via our business studies course that brings students together from all four degree programmes to develop the appropriate skills and knowledge to effectively engage in the world of commerce. Above and beyond these shared courses, students get the chance to engage with their area of specialisation through practical projects that see them addressing critical, creative and professional concerns related to their field. But we realise that choosing one’s career path at such a young age can be daunting, which is why we offer all our students a foundation course that spans the first six months of their first year of study so that they receive career orientation prior to having to decide on their area of specialisation.
How has technology changed creative industries?
Digital technologies dramatically changed the pace of our profession. The expectation for quick and easy solutions to complex creative problems puts a lot of strain on creative professionals and unfortunately tends to move the focus from effective meaning-making to technical expertise. The creative academy aims to address this concern by reminding students that digital tools are merely a means to an end, that the specific software you use is not nearly as important as the efficacy of your creative thinking and your ability to add meaning and connection to the audience you reach.
What role do digital tools play in creativity?
The vast array of digital tools available to students enables a sense of curious discovery. Being able to test and try various creative solutions in the digital space, with the added benefit of ctrl-z (the undo button), stimulates a culture of prototyping, trying and testing ideas.
How do you help students make the transition into the world of work?
What we found lacking in creative education, at the time when we established the Creative Academy, was the thorough development of students’ professional capacities. These are capacities not necessarily related to vocational skills, but rather the interpersonal skills, administrative skills and critical decision making skills that, up until recently, have been quite alien to creative education. We therefore, work with a variety of guest lecturers, ranging from HR consultants to chartered accountants and law professionals to ensure that our students understand the complexities of workplace communication and interpersonal dynamics – the so-called ‘soft skills’ – as well as the more ‘hard’ skills like book keeping, understanding tax requirements, basic contract law and the inner workings of intellectual property. Students are also ‘eased into the professional world by completing internships/apprenticeships during their final years of study. We have come to see how these modes of work integrated learning lead to potential job offers and long-lasting professional connections that offer students a softer landing in the working world. This approach has assured the successful entry of our graduates into many industries, both locally and abroad.
What advice do you have for students entering the workspace?
As young creative professionals, the biggest concern is understanding one’s own value. The troubling truth is that the enthusiasm of graduates is often met with quite exploitative tendencies, especially in bigger organisations. Graduates need to rely on each other as a community, talk freely and openly about fair rates, fair working conditions and healthy self-care strategies. In addition, it is vital to remember that instant success does not always equate to long-term success, so they also need to remind each other where they are in their career. Stop comparing the start of your career to the middle or end of someone else’s. Be patient and play the long game. And remember the wise words of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.” Approach the world with humility, curiosity and a willingness to learn, in that way you are empowered by the potential of everything awaiting to unfold for you, rather than being limited by that which you already know.
DIGGING IT – HOW THE ACADEMY WON A LOERIE AWARD USING MINECRAFT
WHEN COVID STRUCK IN 2020 THE CREATIVE ACADEMY HAD THE CHOICE TO RUN FOR COVER OR INNOVATE CREATIVELY AROUND THE PROBLEMS CREATED BY SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THE CLOSURE OF LEARNING INSTITUTIONS.
With a brief from the academy’s creative team, two students recreated the entire campus and surrounds in Minecraft, down to the last detail and even including avatars of the teaching staff.
Interaction Design students Chris le Roux and Nathan De Villiers painstakingly did the building and crafting that would allow virtual visitors to walk every corridor and room on the campus, and they were finally rewarded with a prestigious bronze Loerie award for their trouble.
“The team created a new biome where COVID doesn’t exist and social distancing is only used to run away from skeletons. That is the transporting power of creativity and a fine example of Interaction Design,” says Creative Academy IXD Programme Co-ordinator Walt Geldenhuys.
A Bachelor of Arts degree in Interaction Design is one of the degrees offered at the CTCA and includes courses such as User-Interface and User-Experience Design, with a focus on practical application in the digital world.
(Watch the walkthrough videos on the CTCA Youtube channel.)
TECH ISSUE 105, April 2022
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