AI Art at Loyola: AI’s impact in the Fine Arts Department


By: Olivia Hill (Loyola Senior)

The teaching of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in art is a recurring and controversial topic within the artist community. Some think that using AI tools is taking away from the authenticity and creativity of art. But it is not always inherently bad, even though there are potential challenges and considerations that we must be aware of. 

Not all artists are concerned about the negative impact of AI, and many artists see the teaching of AI as a valuable tool for experimentation, inspiration, and expanding creative possibilities. 

Josh Cook (32) is based in Avondale, Chicago, and has been lecturer at Loyola University Chicago since 2019 where he instructs Graphic Design. He has recently achieved his MDes degree from the University of Illinois Chicago. His portfolio can be accessed here

The impact of AI on art will continue to evolve in education, and it is up to professors to decide how they want to incorporate or respond to these tools in their practice. At Loyola, It is essential  to address the use of AI, as it is becoming a part of everyone’s daily life.

 I sat down with Cook to talk with him more about how AI tools are affecting students in the fine arts department.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity*

RogersEdge Reporter: What was your first experience with AI like?

Josh Cook: My first experience, I think, similar to other folks were tools like DALL-E and Midjourney and that kind of stuff. Like the text image generators, I think there were earlier examples of them in the Google dream, right? You remember where it kind of created these really surreal images? I think that might have been maybe my earliest touch point, but I didn’t really start playing around with it until the more robust tech image generators came about.

RER: Have you seen any impact of AI on your students’ development throughout their academic journey?

Cook: I think what I’ve seen come out of it is just this notion of like, anything can be a tool and should be treated as such. And I have seen them use AI for creative practices, like developing their own tools. I think AI also teaches you all how to work with prompts. It is kind of seen as this easy way of doing things, but writing really good prompts is not that easy. I think the difference between someone messing around with AI, rather than someone who might call themselves an AI artist, is the fact that this person who might call themselves an artist is working really diligently to write prompts that generate specific outputs. And I think that in and of itself is like a creative exercise. It’s creative. I think it empowers students who maybe aren’t practicing illustrators to use their creative writing skills to produce illustrations and other stuff like that.

RER: Can you share any challenges or obstacles you’ve encountered when teaching AI in art, and how you have overcome them?

Cook: I’ve been working in the realm of design for over a decade. I’ve been messing around with AI only for a year, so I think the hardest part is getting students to understand how and why it works. And I think the other tricky thing is just talking through the theoretical component to it. There are conversations that are still happening. And we have discussions in our classes where we will read stuff related to AI, but it’s in flux. 

RER: Can you recommend any resources or platforms for art students who want to explore AI in their projects?

Cook: I’m really interested in the platforms that are more ad hoc, like Deforum. It’s like a group of folks on Discord keeping it maintained. It’s open source. To me the stuff that’s open source is more compelling, because you have to kind of do more on your end to figure it out. Whereas AI that’s included in Photoshop, or other kinds of AI like Runway, is easier to use and I think that takes away some of the craft of it. I think digging into it and figuring out why and how things work, to me, makes it feel more honest. Which is maybe just me trying to satisfy myself in working with this medium that is maybe morally dubious, right? 

I guess to answer your question, I lean towards open source versions of AI, because it feels, to me, more honest than paying a corporation to use their tool, knowing that they’re scraping the internet to turn a profit. That feels more shady to me than the alternative.

RER: Do you have any advice you can give other aspiring art educators who want to integrate AI tools in their teaching?

Cook: Yeah. Play with it yourself and learn how it works. I think not presenting it as this scary Boogeyman, but presenting it as a new tool is important. Also, talking through diligently about the moral conundrum of it is important too.

I think instances where it’s not very great is when corporations use it so they don’t have to pay illustrators. I think by talking about this to students, then maybe if one of my students is pressured to use AI instead of paying an illustrator, then they might put their foot down, I would hope. And I think if you are going to teach this stuff, which I think people should, it needs to be done in a way that is ethical and respects the people that are being, for lack of a better word, ripped off. 

It’s just about making sure that you’re not hurting your fellow creative folks by using it and making sure that, if you’re teaching it, you are imploring your students to do the same.

For more information about Artificial Intelligence, visit : click here 

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