DCTC Students Tackle Challenging Art Project

City of Inver Grove Heights recognizes members of Peter Skoro’s Advanced Photoshop class for creating mural at community center

On October 22, 2007, the city council of Inver Grove Heights recognized Peter Skoro and his Advanced Photoshop class with an Award of Appreciation plaque for creating and installing a mural at the Veterans Memorial Community Center.

The mural project began when Tracy Petersen, the recreation superintendent for Inver Grove Heights, contacted the Visual Communications Department at Dakota County Technical College to request assistance.

“I had seen their mural at a neighboring community center and thought that it was unique,” Petersen said. She realized that a comparable mural was something that would benefit her own community center in Inver Grove Heights.

Under the direction of Skoro, a graphic design technology instructor at the college, the 2007 spring semester Advanced Photoshop class took on the project. An instructor with more than a dozen years experience teaching at DCTC, Skoro knew that the mural would give his students crucial learning opportunities outside the regular classroom experience.

“They would be working in real-world conditions,” Skoro said. “They would learn how to meet customer expectations and manage printing limitations—all while following precise instructions.”

After working with Petersen to develop a theme called “People and Community,” Skoro assembled a prototype of the mural, which the community center accepted.

“The mural took the form of six pieces,” Skoro said. “One section spanned 50 feet while the other sections were 10 to 20 feet long.”

Before starting the project, Skoro took his students on a tour of the community center. He gave a presentation about the proposed mural, allowing everyone time to grasp the scope and complexity of the undertaking.

“The students each chose a part of the mural to create,” Skoro said. “Using images provided by Tracy Petersen, they came up with their own compositions, which they planned on paper in harmony with the overall layout. Often faced with resolution problems, they enlarged and cropped the images to fit their compositions. The artistic side of the assignment needed to conform with technical aspects related to the computer and reproduction.”

The students mounted the mural sections on one-inch foam cores and laminated the printed surface. They used adhesive and screws to mount the sections on the community center’s walls.

The finished mural has garnered universal praise. “The staff, users of the facility, the city council, and the Parks and Recreation Commission have been very appreciative,” said Petersen, noting that people frequently comment on how the artwork adds to the warmth and community feel of the center.

The DCTC students enjoyed the chance to test their knowledge and skill outside a traditional academic setting. Skoro believes that the project provided a wealth of valuable, hands-on experience. “The students learned about scanning, color characteristics, software tools, matching image quality to a large-format color printer, working together as a group, and meeting deadlines,” he said.

The graphic design technology program at DCTC prepares graduates for exciting careers in specialized design services, publishing, advertising, printing, computer systems design, and many other related areas. Graphic designers find well-paying jobs as Web designers, Flash animators, prepress specialists, digital illustrators, and photo editors. Many start their own graphic design companies.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers lists graphic design under “Arts and Communications,” which ranks fourth on the association’s “Top 10 Career Fields in America.”

According to salary.com, the median annual income for graphic design specialists in the U.S. is $43,758.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for graphic designers continues to increase, with employment projected to rise as much as 17 percent through the year 2014.