Monday Mentors: Meet Alexandra Leonhart, Director of Aesthetic Technologies

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Monday, December 4th, 2023

Students may be most familiar with Alexandra Leonhart in her role as Chair of the Live Experience Design & Production Department, but may not be aware that she fills another position as well — that of Director of Aesthetic Technologies. Yet anyone whose art has intersected with IT, or creative hardware or software, has in fact intersected with Leonhart’s Director role, too. 

“My educational background is in media production and post-processing. When I was initially hired for a job in the IT Department, it was because I married the creative process with the hardware and software aspects of IT. This meant that since I was an A/V techie who knew large-format printing operations and creative software navigation of the creative cloud and various engines, I was brought into IT to support any challenges for both faculty and students that might pop up in navigating updates and unique hardware and software upgrades. 

“What that has translated to in my latest position is assisting with technological quandaries. These could be an IT Department (consultation)  where it relates to A/V capture or post-processing methods for events or, more often than not, lab and equipment management. We have an Aesthetics Lab up on the fourth floor that some students call the esports lab, but this is merely one of many functions of the space. This is a creative lab that boasts access to lighting equipment and programming tools, live sound hardware, as well as diverse and unique creative software… including visual procedural generation and projection mapping.” 

Can you “translate” your job title — what do your day-to-day job duties entail?

Alexandra Leonhart: I research and maintain technology equipment and labs while providing consultation and collaboration with other departments on these creative spaces and events and the hardware/software operation and availability. 

Can you explain what an aesthetic technology lab is, at PCA&D?

AL: An Aesthetics Technology Lab is a creative space with the addition of unique creative software available for students and classes. It is a space that is technologically outfitted to encourage advanced digital art skills, practices, and workshop development.

This could be our aptly named Aesthetics Lab (sometimes referred to as the esports lab) that boasts our fastest workstations on campus or one of our additional technology resource rooms including the Sound Capture Studios and the Makerspace. These spaces encourage additional experimentation and provide additional hardware/software resources for instruction and student access. 

What do you find rewarding about this work?

AL; Research and discovery of solutions to empower pedagogical opportunities or student creations is always an exceptionally rewarding and enjoyable process for me. It’s a great feeling when the equipment is being used in fun and exciting new ways that haven’t been possible before. 

How do you work with students in your role?

AL: I use all of these spaces within the faculty side of my role at PCA&D. I work to continue to increase familiarity between the students’ and faculty’s creative technical knowledge and implementation. The event side of Aesthetic Technology also allows for a lot of collaboration, empowering students in their personal shows/performances or campus events. 

My goal is to further develop these opportunities for student planning, organizing, and running experiences and getting comfortable with event sequences, hardware operation, and, of course, creative technology troubleshooting. 

How do your personal creative interests intersect with this Director role?

AL: “Director of Aesthetic Technologies” directly speaks to many of my personal interests, educational backgrounds, and professional wonderings. Outside of my Art BFA and Media MFA origins, I also have a long history as a sound engineer and performer that I get to dip into to support my Director role. I also am a creative tinkerer and often employ analog electronics or single-board computing for interactive art pieces and installations which similarly contributes to my work knowledge. All of these interests, experiences, and my personal practice further my excitement and knowledge in my Director position.