ORT Uruguay draws on Californian expertise


Two ORT Uruguay design students have returned to Montevideo enriched in more ways than one after spending six weeks at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

Florentina Perez and Sebastian Perez (no relation) spent six weeks in Los Angeles studying with the world’s leading teachers of animation thanks to an academic collaboration programme agreed between CalArts and ORT Uruguay last year. While there, they joined seven other students to create entries for PSAid, a nationwide Public Service Announcement (PSA) contest sponsored by the Centre for International Disaster Information.
The team’s two entries “モ Helping Hands and A Walk through Disaster “モ won first and second places respectively netting a total of $17,000 prize money.
“The concept for Helping Hands was my idea and it was quite something for me personally that the class decided to go with it. It was the most gratifying part for me “モ much more than the money “モ because the students at CalArts are very talented people,”? said Florentina, 23, who has been studying at ORT Uruguay for three years.
For Sebastian, 22, the time at CalArts was his first time in the United States but he was able to quickly overcome the culture shock.
“It was amazing, like something from another world,”? he said. “At first I found it hard to express myself in English but it became easier after a few days. It was an excellent experience: everyone was so talented, you learn from everyone.”?
Florentina added: “The CalArts students are very ambitious “モ they enter the most important companies in animation like Disney and Pixar “モ and we felt very motivated by them.”?
Both students keep in contact with CalArts and the friends they made there using the Institute’s blogs and web pages as well as email.
“We’re continuing to learn from the experience,”? Florentina said.
She and Sebastian were the first ORT Uruguay undergraduates to benefit from the university’s collaboration with CalArts, just one of several cooperation programmes the Uruguayans have arranged with respected tertiary institutions around the world. Their flights, tuition and living expenses were paid by the US Embassy in Montevideo.
“The Embassy became very excited about the programme; they were happy that a well-known American university had developed a relationship with a well-known Uruguayan university. So they decided to help,”? said ORT Uruguay Rector Dr Jorge Grunberg.
The two-year programme, which started in earnest in March, has as its goal the raising of digital animation skills in Uruguay and so enable the country’s nascent animation and videogames industry to produce at an international level.
“Ask primary students what Uruguay is about and they’ll say “リcows’,”? said Dr Grunberg. “But we strongly believe that we should be producing more service industry products “モ such as digital animation “モ rather than rely on primary produce. In the future, when young children are asked what Uruguay is about we would like them to say more than milk and meat.”?
And digital animation is the key to an ever increasing number of applications which certainly hold open the prospect of diversifying Uruguay’s economic image, from movies to advertising, video games and on-line games, mobile telephones and digital television.
To that end, CalArts faculty members are spending time at ORT Uruguay, sharing their top level expertise with students, educators and working professionals alike.
“We’re not only teaching animation skills but also the business side “モ how to market yourselves, how to include yourselves as part of an international chain of production,”? said Dr Grunberg.
He added: “This is all part of our strategy to bring new disciplines to Uruguay. ORT Uruguay is different from other universities because we’re not duplicating another degree for teaching law, for example. We are innovating; we’re bringing to Uruguay “モ and to Latin America “モ new disciplines which are not being taught at an internationally competitive level.
“The main stumbling block to the development of Latin America’s incipient digital animation industry is the lack of suitably skilled professionals. So this is our contribution to a whole new industry: we’re helping to train a whole new workforce and this is what ORT has been all about throughout its 130-year history.”?
Among the CalArts educators who are importing this know-how is Panama-born George Scribner, who this month taught the first in a series of workshops on professional development in animation at ORT Uruguay’s Communication and Design Faculty.
Like so many of his CalArts colleagues, Mr Scribner’s teaching is informed by vast professional experience. He joined the Walt Disney Studios nearly 30 years ago, has worked on numerous features including The Lion King, and is currently animation director for the Walt Disney theme parks.
He had not been aware of ORT before participating in this programme and was surprised to find a university of the quality of ORT Uruguay (for the fifth year running it is the only Uruguayan university listed among the best tertiary institutions in Latin America by the Times Higher Education Supplement, being one of only 14 of the continent’s 700 universities to make the list of the 500 best in the world).
“I’m really impressed that they have the smarts to recognise that they have so much to learn,”? Mr Scribner said. “It’s a case of “リwho knew !’ I’ve never been south of Panama. [ORT Uruguay’s] vision is pretty impressive.”?
Coming from an educational environment which selects the best applicants from a large pool of committed artists, he has noticed the challenge of teaching students with a broader range of experience.
“CalArts students have been drawing their entire lives and have known what they want to do all their lives. At ORT there are those who are quite good to those who are just beginning,”? Mr Scribner said. “At CalArts we train artists to become actors with pencils, to be able to perform on paper, the level of artistry is already there when they come to us. In Uruguay it’s trickier. But I like it. The students are very open to what I’m trying to communicate.”?
He paid tribute not only to the skill of the educators with whom he is working but also their open-mindedness.
“I wouldn’t say I’m training them. I’m giving them more a sense of what we value; I also have a lot to learn from them. I show them out approach to teaching “モ how we’re looking for compelling story tellers, not just people with the ability to draw. We need people who can draw a story; it’s a verb. The teachers here get it; they are way ahead of me.”?
In co-founding CalArts in 1961, Walt Disney said his vision was to “provide a place to develop the talent of the future”?. The realisation of that vision is an experience ORT Uruguay is committed to mirroring.
“Our focus is on receiving their skills and they know that,”? Dr Grunberg said. “They are the ones who know this trade.”?