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Summer Journey Into Interactive Art

The REAL Program’s internships continue to open up new worlds, ideas, for students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
August 18, 2023
By Tracy Seipel
Lydia Kim '24 surrounded by the interactive artwork she helped artist Carole Kim create this summer.
| Lydia Kim '24 at the outdoor amphitheater stage she helped artist Carole Kim paint at the Montalvo Arts Center through its Lucas Artists Residency Program. The floating drawings imagine the neural reach of the human spine and our network of interconnectivity. Photos by Jim Gensheimer.

At Santa Clara, web design and engineering major Lydia Kim ’24 has helped create video animations for a bioengineering course and even a video game based on swimming micro-robots that try to break down blood clots.

But this summer, during a unique SCU internship at Montalvo Arts Center's Lucas Artists Residency Program, she learned about new ways of expanding an audience’s imagination.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” says Kim, who helped Pasadena multi-media artist Carole Kim (no relation) paint an outdoor amphitheater stage and one-story tall screens with white, cobweb-like images. Pieced together, the scene conjures a human spine and neural network, symbolizing our empathetic connections with each other.

It didn’t stop there. On opening night, the artist’s team brought the web-like brush strokes to life by projecting identical patterns onto the painted stage and screens. Synchronized to live music, Kim says it gave the visual effect of one breathing organism. 

“It was inspiring to learn that there really are no boundaries,” says the SCU senior, who is minoring in studio art. “You can incorporate digital art into anything, really.”

Kim is among a trio of SCU interns, including Caroline Wing ’24 and Katherine DeRitis ’24, who worked on a handful of interactive installations at Montalvo, a former estate turned public park in the hills of Saratoga. Each of the exhibits, on display through October 22, explores the theme of “Take Time,” urging us all to pause, reflect, and find joy in life.

The opportunity to learn from artists about new techniques in immersive art happened because of SCU’s REAL Program. Launched in 2018, the initiative offers College of Arts and Sciences undergraduates— who would otherwise need to work during the summer—a 10-week-long paid summer internship related to their studies or career interests.

This year, more than 100 students gained valuable experience in fields ranging from stage management at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, to writing for a weekly newspaper in San Clemente, to clerking for a chief judge in Denver.

At Montalvo, Wing found herself paired with Akiko Yamashita. The Los Angeles-based artist is known for immersive installations using light, projection mapping, and real-time 3D animation to transform our perception.

Caroline Wing '24 arranges paper lanterns she hung for an interactive exhibit at the Montalvo Arts Center.

Caroline Wing '24 arranges Japanese paper lanterns, part of an interactive art exhibit she worked on this summer at Montalvo Arts Center.

Yamashita’s exhibit is inspired by a traditional Japanese summer festival. On the park’s great lawn, in the branches of a wide magnolia tree, Wing hung clutches of red and white Japanese paper lanterns, while a nearby hidden recorder plays Japanese festival music. 

The SCU art history and communication major then draped a Ginkgo tree with Japanese wind chimes. A sign posted near the lanterns alerts viewers to use a QR code and their smartphone camera to reveal augmented reality images of some of Yamashita’s fondest festival memories: goldfish, watermelon slices, and a brightly striped fair booth, all playfully floating in the air.

“The whole concept of art and augmented reality, it makes you feel like you are right there,” says Wing of the experience that also offered her insights into how exhibits are organized, something she has wanted to learn. (On opening night, Yamashita also used a projection map of the same festival images, but overlapping onto the facade of the park’s huge villa.) 

The internship for DeRitis, an art history major, took a different route into a nearby cottage gallery, where she worked with Bay Area mixed-media artist Inez Storer.

Katherine DeRitis '24 organizes a table of do-it-yourself art materials for visitors at the Inez Storer art exhibit.

Katherine DeRitis '24 assembles a do-it-yourself art table for visitors at the Inez Storer exhibit at Montalvo Arts Center.

Storer’s “magical realism” paintings and collages use ideas from current events or her own life to create stories on canvas. The exhibit invites visitors to interact with Storer’s art by encouraging both adults and children to construct their own stories at the gallery, using scissors, paper, pieces of collage and glue sticks placed on a nearby table.

“Art can be kind of intimidating to people,” says DeRitis. “This is a way to make the general public feel welcome in an artist’s setting.”

As she visited with Storer in her Inverness studio, then helped to assemble the show and write an introduction about it for the gallery, DeRitis got a better sense of what a career in art conservation could look like.

“I’ve learned how to make connections with artists,” she says proudly, “and get to know them in their studios, and talk about the stories behind their work.”