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Monday, Aug. 31, 2015

Meeting of the Minds

DigiFest South fuses creativity with technology to create a workforce development

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DigiFest South fuses creativity with technology to create a workforce development

The Bossier Arts Council presents its fourth annual DigiFest South digital arts festival Sept. 11-13 and 15-18 at various locations in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

“The purpose is to show kids the career options available to those who like to play video games or are digital savvy,” Robin Jones, executive director of the Bossier Arts Council, said. DigiFest also hopes to demonstrate the significant economic and cultural impact of the digital media industry in today’s society, and to emphasize the value of the science, technology, engineering, arts and math education model.

“We will have sixth-, seventhand eighth-graders, and 11th- and 12th-graders with people who are working in the digital industry – 3D printers, filmmakers, newscasters – anything that’s digitally related. We pair them up to help them see what kind of a career path they can take,” Jones said.

The festival starts off with a competition. “Sept. 11-13 we have DigiJam [at the Bossier Arts Council building], which is a video game competition. We have people who are working as coders, artists, musicians – we pair them off in teams with students, and they work for 48 hours to create a video game. We select the winner, but all the video games go over to DigiFest, and the 2,000 kids that come through can play those video games,” she said. “We are trying to engage those kids in sixth and seventh grade – especially girls. At that age they start to lose interest in the science and technology, and we try to catch them at that point. We want to show them that they can be scientists, video game developers or work with 3D printers.”

DigiFest is the brainchild of Clint McCommon, who is the Bossier Arts Council board president and chair for the event. “The goals are to show young students opportunities they might not know are out there to be creative and do what they love and make money. They see that they can do all of these things, but they still need an education,” McCommon said. “I really hope that it inspires a least a few of them to try a little harder in school and see that what they might have for their future plans. I like seeing the kids on the floor show, and seeing the ones that get really excited. Not every high school junior is going to get super-excited about this, but the ones that do, they’re more engaged and hands-on. Five years from now, these same students will be the entrepreneurs, working for Moonbot [Studios], creating 3D models or working for a game design company in town – that is the coolest part of it.”

The goals are clear for DigiFest. “I think one of the most important things we do is the DigiForum [Sept. 18] to show art as an industry – change the language. Instead of ‘art education’ we use ‘workforce development.’ These kids are part of the workforce. They’re graphic designers or video producers like myself. They’re making money, paying taxes, they’re on the PTA. They’re part of our workforce. We have got to keep arts education as an important part of our curriculum,” McCommon said. “You’ve heard about STEAM education, and there’s a lot of studies saying that students who have an arts education do better in school overall, and now they’re saying it gives them an advantage when they go into the job field. The more creative work they have done from secondary on not only means their brain works better, but it also means you’re even more hirable. If you can’t make what the company needs, you won’t have a future.”

The events for the Digifest field trips include the DigiJam competition, DigiTalks on creativity and technology, DigiExpo where local technology companies and educational institutes present interactive exhibits showcasing the latest applications of technology and career path opportunities, DigiForum workshops and culminates with the free DigiMusic all ages electronic music concert in the Red River District.

–Mandy Byrd

Learn more:

For more information and to find a link for teachers to sign up classes, go to www. digifestsouth.com.

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