Berkeley Today Stories
Creativity Is a Pathway to Learning
As a recent guest on NJTV’s "Life & Living with Joanna Gagis," Ken Woo discussed how he uses his knowledge of fine art to expand the horizons of his interior design and graphic design students at Berkeley College.
Experts have long asserted the value of arts education as an essential component of a broader understanding of the world. Ken Woo, Berkeley College faculty member since 2004, and an artist whose work has been shown in many countries and is in the private collections of both the Guggenheim and Hearst families, knows that integrating art into one’s studies fosters a greater appreciation of the world around us, and helps students prepare for their future careers.
“Students need to understand how societies have expressed themselves through art by learning how history has evolved through images. Art is not just paintings and sculpture - it’s around us everywhere. Many students today have forgotten how important art is to society and culture,” Mr. Woo said.
Making a name for himself
Mr. Woo’s art is also in the collections of Mount Sinai Hospital, Our Savior's Church, St. Malachy's (Actors' Chapel), Murray Hill Place in New York City, Saint Bridget Hospice in Kildare, Ireland, and St. Gabriel's Church in Charlotte, NC. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the AKI Institute in Holland, as well as at Oxford University. When an internship placed him with an architect who was renovating churches, he applied his experience to bid his own projects and received a commission, in part from the Vatican, to redo the altar of the Church of our Savior on Park Avenue in New York City.
Mr. Woo has brought his experiences in the field to students, emphasizing his belief that it is important to understand the traditions and fundamentals of drawing and painting before applying them in a contemporary context. “Then, the students can develop their own mind and concepts,” he said. He noted that fine art has always been the leading foundation of graphic design and interior design, both programs in which he teaches at Berkeley.
Teaching art for future careers
Mr. Woo began his Berkeley College career teaching interior design and now teaches graphic design. In addition to working in a traditional on-site classroom, students from across the globe can take a course taught by Mr. Woo online, using online tools that allow students to listen to lectures and even show their work for critique. Mr. Woo continues to hone his own skills to adapt his teaching style to respond to the constantly changing demands of an external marketplace, where students seek careers in animation, 3-D design, print, architecture, or web-based industries. “They have to learn web and multimedia tools,” he said, mentioning that he is also challenged to keep up to date on the latest software.
According to Mr. Woo, the computer is just a tool to the hand and brain.
“I teach a perspective class to my students, and after about a week or so, they really enjoy it because they realize that, ‘wow, this is almost like a meditation that slows down my daily routine.’ Then they really cherish time spent slowly producing a drawing by hand,” he said.
“It’s uplifting to instill a knowledge of art with students from all subject areas, enhancing knowledge that is relevant in other subjects,” he added. “I am inspired to share my education and experiences with the students.”
Mr. Woo earned Master’s of Fine Arts degrees from the New York Academy of Art and the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, China, after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of San Diego. He also studied in Florence, Italy.
For more information on Ken Woo and to view his artwork, please click here.