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Art & Design student earns out of this world experience

Clea Karst, MHC Art & Design Student
August 18, 2022

The creativity of Clea Karst found a unique canvas after she landed an artist-in-residence position through the Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society (AMAAS) earlier this year.

Working with two other artists, the Medicine Hat College (MHC) Art & Design student spent six months researching, exploring and pushing the boundaries of her own talent in the areas of virtual and augmented reality to prepare for AMAAS’s conference in July.

The event happens every two years, celebrating the province’s diverse community of filmmakers and sound, digital and performance artists through screenings, art installations, guest speakers, and tours. This year’s conference theme – Out of This World – played on the history of the host community, St. Paul, home to the world's first UFO landing pad.

After meeting their mentor and connecting online, Karst and the other artists-in-residence travelled to St. Paul to get a sense of the town and draw inspiration for their work, which they decided would focus on the landing pad. While pouring over town archives and visiting the museum, she discovered events from 1967 held to commemorate the construction of the legendary tourist attraction, including a Martian hairstyling competition and fashion shows.

“I was interested in women's beauty and thought I could create something really cool that would incorporate the future and the past in virtual reality,” explains Karst. She started sketching her ideas, then moved those concepts off the page and into a new space.

“Through the process I learned how limitless the virtual reality world is. In the beginning, I had a very static view of what I could do in there, but the more I accepted the freer I became with the VR.”

The result was a retro futuristic beauty salon virtual reality experience, which was revealed at the conference and received high praise from attendees and event organizers.

Images from inside Clea Karst's retro beauty salon virtual reality project

Above: Images from inside Karst's virtual world.

James Kuehn, instructor in MHC’s art and design program and AMAAS director, was excited to have one of his own students participate in the residency.

“Clea exhibits the ability to synthesize research and use a combination of tools to make an experience that is uniquely hers. She represented the Art & Design program and Medicine Hat College spectacularly,” says Kuehn.

For Karst, the residency opportunity was both valuable and encouraging.

“The biggest thing I learned from this work term was the collaborative process. The artists that I worked with were outstanding. Seeing how they do things has honestly opened my eyes,” reflects Karst. “It was such an exciting and memorable experience and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it. The Alberta media arts scene is full of talented and welcoming people. It was awesome to share my work with everyone and to be the spectator to other artists' talks and works.”

Karst looks forward to sharing her experiences and applying lessons learned in her residency to her final year of study at MHC.

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