in late august, lighting designer derek porter, principal and founder of Kansas City, Missouri-based Derek Porter Studio, was appointed the new Director of the MFA program in Lighting Design in the Department of Architecture, Interior Design, and Lighting at Parsons. An accomplished practitioner with over 16 years of professional experience, Porter has always made teaching an integral component of his work, most recently at Kansas University and the Kansas City Art Institute. The fall 2005 semester will be a transitional period, as he splits time between Kansas City and New York, balancing his practice and academic responsibilities. He will begin a full-time teaching schedule in the spring.
The primary draw for Porter, in accepting this position, was Parsons itself and the uniqueness of the internationally recognized institution. It is only one of a handful of programs in the United States that offers a degree in lighting, and acknowledges the discipline alongside architectural and interior design studies. The program has undergone some restructuring in the last few years, most notably the change in degree type-from a Master of Arts to a Master of Fine Arts. Porter explains, 'They [Parsons] want to marry an understanding of education for real practice in the lighting industry with a deeper philosophical understanding of how light, human touch, and experience come together. It is really the only program in the country that I know of that is interested in that mix.'
Porter has developed a significant practice in the Midwest, and although it is one with a diverse portfolio, the firm's working process, rather than a specific project type, is what he is most proud to have nourished. It is this design methodology-understanding the 'architectural sensibilities of a project in order to develop an idea about how light can be rooted in the fabric of the project'-that Porter hopes to share with Parson's students. Having studied environmental design at the Kansas City Art Institute, rather than a formal study of lighting, 'the idea of a studio environment,' he explains, 'and thinking on a more experimental manner about light, is just intrinsic to me.'
An individual who considers himself a practitioner as opposed to a scholar, he is eager to take the experience of the real world that includes lighting, and impart that understanding into the student's studies from studio to lighting lab. 'I want to expose them to the craft and physicality of light that computers and textbooks won't be able to transcend for them,' he says.
Excited about the potential for collaboration with the architecture and interior design programs, Porter looks forward to working with, and learning from, his colleagues and students. He hopes that over time the program can broaden, and that lighting can be recognized as a 'catalyst between architecture and interior design.' With such a vision, the future seems very bright at Parsons. ed