• Lecture presented by Kata McNamara. From contemporary art museums to independent project spaces to college art galleries, Otis College Director of Galleries and Exhibitions, Kate McNamara, will discuss her dedicated engagement with alternative and not-for-profit art spaces and the vital role these kinds of institutions play in today’s contemporary art world.

  • Open Studios

    Jun 23| Special Event

    Open Studios: L.A. Summer Residency

    The artists and designers of the first-ever L.A. Summer Residency invite you to their open studio event! The public can join family and friends as they tour the studios and view all of the incredible work produced during the past three weeks. A closing reception will follow from 4-5:30pm.

    The L.A. Summer Residency at Otis College of Art and Design offers an opportunity for artists and designers to work side-by-side in an immersive three-week residency within the vibrant art and design community of Los Angeles.

  • Closing Reception

    Jun 23| Special Event

    Closing Reception: L.A. Summer Residency


    The L.A. Summer Residency at Otis College of Art and Design offers an opportunity for artists and designers to work side-by-side in an immersive three-week residency within the vibrant art and design community of Los Angeles.

    More information about the L.A. Summer Residency Program.


    Join us for the closing reception of Otis College’s first residency. 

    Friday, June 23, 2017  

    The Forum | 4:00 PM

  • Sitting in Sound

    Jul 15| Special Event
    Jesse Fleming, A Theory of Everything, 2015, Installation view.
  • Opening Reception

    Jul 15| Special Event

    L: Nora Slade, Kate Mouse Mickey Moss, 2014, Photo transfer and fabric paint on sweatshirt, cardboard and found objects. R: Marisa Takal, I Love My Sister, 2016, Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 inches.

    Opening Reception for the two-person exhibition of work by the Los Angeles-based artists Nora Slade and Marisa Takal

    Light snacks and refreshments.

    Exhibition on view July 15 - August 19, 2017.

    Bolsky Gallery located across from Ben Maltz Gallery, ground floor, Galef Center for Fine Arts.

  • Amelia Gray is the author of the short story collections AM/PM, Museum of the Weird, and Gutshot, as well as the novels Threats and, most recently, Isadora, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, of FC2's Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. 

  • Luis J. Rodriguez was Los Angeles Poet Laureate from 2014-2016. The twenty-fifth edition of his first book, Poems Across the Pavement, won a 2015 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. He has written fourteen other books of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, including the best-selling memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. Rodriguez is also founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. In 2016 Tia Chucha Press produced the largest anthology of L.A.-area poets, Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts of Los Angeles. Rodriguez’s last memoir It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest poetry collection Borrowed Bones appeared in 2016 from Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press.


Kathleen Milnes Interview

Aug 28, 2013
On the Nuances of Digital Media
Spotlight Category: College

Interview of Otis Digital Media Assistant Chair Kathleen Milnes by Bonnie Baglioli Randall for Animation Career Review

Kathleen Milnes -Assistant Chair - Digital Media

As one of the nation’s oldest art universities, Otis College of Art & Design’s Los Angeles campus has long served as a beacon for aspiring artists. Featuring a first year foundational curriculum, students gain a working knowledge of the skills vital to art and design fields before choosing their major of choice. Among their choices is Otis’ distinguished BFA in Digital Media whose many compelling attributes attract top talent and faculty.

Readers of ACR may recall our previous look into the program with department chair Harry Mott back in 2011. With increasing enrollment numbers and new courses being added as we speak, we thought it was time to catch up with the Digital Media folks at Otis again. This time, we spoke with Assistant Chair Kathleen Milnes. A recognized leader in the field, Milnes has worked at the intersection of the entertainment industry and public policy, research and workforce education for more than two decades. Since the late 90s, she has taught a senior seminar course at Otis and offered her insight to hundreds of students and graduates along the way. She took time out of her busy start to the fall semester to speak with us by phone. (This interview, done via phone, has been edited for length & clarity where necessary).

ACR:  Kathleen, thanks for taking time to speak with us! Let’s start with your own extensive background. Your roles have taken you from production manager and deputy director of the California Film Commission to a VP role of Government Relations and a private consultant; additionally, you began teaching and founded the Entertainment Economy Institute. What made you decide to get into the areas of research and education with regard to the entertainment industry?

Kathleen Milnes:  My passion has always been in good public policy. My father was in local politics when I was growing up and I was always interested in politics and government from the standpoint of obtaining good information to decide the best course of action. My research came out of that. At the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, we did the first ever analysis of the direct economic impact of the entertainment industry on the California economy. We got raw data from the companies themselves rather than rely on government numbers. Once I had a child, I became strongly interested and involved in the educational side. Workforce development is important to our economy and to our students and to our future.

ACR:  In your years working in and studying the entertainment industry, you’ve witnessed considerable changes with regard to how we educate the next generation of artists. What are some of the highlights?

KM:  The big thing happening in the 70s was the incredible growth of computer graphics and visual effects. It was a huge explosion that really took over the entertainment industry. We walked away from classical art training in favor of these new tools at that time but it’s the artist behind the technology that we lost track of. You then had the game industry coming up which has become huge. In the beginning, trying to get students to even consider the game industry was hard… I remember bringing in people from EA back in the 90s and they showed a video of the lifestyle of the game industry and it was really about the perks of the job because they had to entice students to get into it!

From about ’94-’99 there was an amazing change and refocus around the new digital technologies and the art you could create with them. The program here at Otis actually started in ’97 and I taught the first graduating class and I’ve been here ever since.

ACR:  You’ve seen quite a few students come through your classroom door. Are they better prepared today than they were 15 years ago because they are digital natives?

KM:  Students today are better prepared from an artistic standpoint definitely but slightly less prepared from a real world standpoint in general. Another change is that we have more women. The first year of our department, we had four or five women; today slightly more than fifty percent of our department is made up of women. The technology has also changed, making it easier to get started on. Students’ work is quite mature because they didn’t have a huge technical learning curve to master. They are digital natives and they are media savvy. 

ACR:  Thanks to its location in LA and its distinguished programs, Otis attracts working and awarded faculty members. What makes them tick?

KM:  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have roughly 115 students in night classes between 7 and 10 with a faculty member who just left the office to come and teach them. These are people who love teaching and explaining what they do. If you love what you do, then you love telling others about it! Teaching is a form of performance art… it’s a bit like improv. Our students are from all different backgrounds and countries around the world- you have to engage them where they are and keep them motivated. When they perform, it’s like being a proud parent. It’s powerful stuff.
Our department keeps growing. We have 82 sophomores this year and our junior class is the largest ever at 90. We have an increased demand for animation classes so we’ve added another course there. To do all this, we hired 12 new faculty members. I got an email just yesterday from an Academy Award winning visual effects supervisor inquiring about teaching positions. Thanks to our location and close connections, our students have what we think are the best instructors anywhere.

ACR:  John Lasseter (Pixar) said that you can’t base a movie just on the imagery... it has to be about the story and the characters. How do you cultivate storytellers working with modern media and technology?

KM:  Absolutely true. We never stop talking about story. Describing the program, we tell students from day one that we need to tell the story or help to tell the story in motion. Whether it’s animation or film or advertising; what’s the story about that car or bottle of champagne? People are hardwired to respond to story. We don’t teach tools… we do have a Photoshop class and a basic 3D with Maya but other than that, we ask students what it is that they’re trying to do and how can they tell that story? Why does the city look that way? Who are those people and how did they get there? It’s embedded in everything we teach. We even go back into the history of story… Harry (Mott, department chair) teaches a class on early movies that includes samurai films and classic stories so that students learn the ways in which we tell and recognize stories. It’s important that they know these things. Students aren’t here to push buttons… they are here to tell stories and eventually take leading roles in the industry.

ACR: And they really do take leading roles upon graduating. What’s your success recipe?

KM: I think what helps us be successful and attract faculty and students and graduates who are running companies now and hiring our new graduates, is our approach. You can always find cheaper button pushers elsewhere, but you can’t find problem-solvers and storytellers easily. Look at Apple. They designed a great product… it’s not about the pieces- those get outsourced for cost; it’s about the story that their products tell.

As an entire college, we’re looking to build in a leadership entrepreneurial aspect so that students understand they are headed for leadership roles in the industry. They aren’t out there to be worker bees- we focus a lot on speaking skills and writing skills and presenting and research. I ask them what tradeshows would the companies they are interested in working for be attending, and what magazines and journals might be laying around their offices. Understand the environment and the cultural view that companies operate in to succeed. That exposes them to the industry and offers them the knowledge necessary to move effortlessly between companies and roles throughout their careers.

ACR:  And many students leverage your local connections for internships, don’t they?

KM: They do. I was speaking to the president of one of the companies that has a lot of our interns and graduates and I asked him if there was something that we could do better or alter within our curriculum. He said to me that the only thing wrong is that our interns have a fourth year of school to fulfill. What he meant was that our interns often complete their internships the summer prior to their senior year and he didn’t like seeing them leave- he wanted them to continue working for him. That’s very indicative of our students and the possibilities that internships provide them.

ACR:  One final question: is there something you wish someone had told you when you were breaking into the industry that you had to learn the hard way?

KM:  It really is a learning experience. Mistakes happen… own up to things and learn from them and move on. Just keep moving forward. Also, you can’t know everything before you make a decision. Sometimes you just have to go forward based on what you know at the time, and then learn from that. I really love what I do and I find this industry constantly fascinating.

ACR:  It shows. Kathleen, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciated learning more of the nuances of Otis’ Digital Media Department.

KM:  Thank you, Bonnie!



iphone- diorama from Otis Alumnus Mike Ko on Vimeo.

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