In this occasional series, we ask recent alums to share how their experiences at the University of Michigan helped to shape who they are and what they believe.
Carlos Garcia (BFA ‘12, performing arts technology) describes himself as an artist, performer, designer, and engineer, and his work incorporates every aspect of that identity.
Last year, he was awarded the prestigious Kresge Artist Fellowship in the foundation’s Live Arts category. The Foundation described Garcia as having “a deep understanding of how to build immersive, storytelling experiences that span styles, genres, and disciplines.”
What made you want to attend the University of Michigan and study in your major?
Since childhood, I’ve found myself at the nexus of technology and creative expression, growing up around music and computers. As I was graduating from high school, I had a fairly limited view of what kind of undergraduate programs were available, unaware of fields such as media arts or sound engineering.
I applied to the University of Michigan’s computer science program, feeling that it would stoke my love for creative problem solving. At the time I figured if didn’t seem like the right fit after a year or two, I could transfer into another one of U-M's many strong programs.
After learning about the performing arts technology program, that’s exactly what I did.
What type of professional experiences have you had since graduating?
I am a practicing artist, designer, and engineer. I have performed and exhibited work nationally and internationally under the name L05 and as part of award-winning Detroit-based artist collective Complex Movements.
We support the transformation of communities by exploring the connections of complex science and social justice movements through multimedia interactive performance work.
We most recently presented more than 90 performances of our project Beware of the Dandelions in Seattle, Dallas, and Detroit.
I also lead creative research and design at the University of Michigan’s Duderstadt Center, where I manage the GroundWorks Media Lab.
Complex Movements' Beware of the Dandelions, Video by The Right Brothers
How did your undergraduate experience prepare you or inspire you to do what you're doing now?
My undergraduate experience was a huge influence on what I do now.
I was one of those students who got involved in a ton of extracurricular activities (probably too many), participating in a range of organizations from research projects to performance groups like 58 Greene, funKtion, and N.V.R. Flow.
Studying performing arts technology and sound engineering was a pivotal academic turn for me. I’m grateful for my computer science background, as it established my ability to dive into code that I would later rely on as core component of my creative practice.
The PAT program, however, is where I started to really find synergy between my creative and technical sides, learning to record and produce music and develop multimedia performances and installations.
While in the music school, I began my artistic career, co-founding hip-hop/electronic music duo Celsius Electronics and the Branch Out Collective, a group of artists and performers that include Ann Arbor’s Tree City.
I would be remiss not to mention the Duderstadt Center, which is an absolutely phenomenal resource.
From the world class staff of media experts to the state-of-the-art audio and video production facilities, it offers an unparalleled access to resources that I don’t think exists at any other academic institution.
Literally any student at the University can come in and explore -- no silos. If you have yet to explore the first floor of the building, you’re missing out!
What was your greatest experience at the University of Michigan?
This is not necessarily a singular experience, but my favorite part of being at the University of Michigan has been meeting all of the incredible people that have become my friends, family, colleagues, and inspirations.
With experiences such as living with the brilliant musical minds that would form groups such as My Dear Disco and Vulfpeck, playing SUPER live shows at the Blind Pig with Celsius Electronics, bouncing around the Duderstadt Center for help crafting my undergraduate thesis, and meeting the love of my life, I truly feel the most valuable part of studying there is the network of relationships you cultivate.
Complex Movements' Beware of the Dandelions, Video by Doug Coombe
1 Piece of Advice
You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do at the start of your college experience.
Make sure to take time to explore your interests, and genuinely ask yourself how it’s possible to weave your passions into your academic and professional career paths.
If you’ve always wanted to try dancing, join a dance group. If you think it’d be cool to work on the solar car team, give it a shot. These experiences will help you find your unique path.
I was far from the model student and took much longer than four years to finish.
Yes, student debt is terrible and avoid it at all costs. But don’t feel stigmatized if your path deviates from the cookie-cutter four-year plan.
You can and will succeed and be all the more unique and valuable for it.
1 Thing That Students Should Do Right Now
I’ve already mentioned this, but go to the Duderstadt Center as soon as you arrive on campus!
If you have any interest in working on multidisciplinary creative projects, it is the place to be.
Stop by GroundWorks and ask for a tour of the facilities so you can understand what’s available to you.
Portrait of Carlos Garcia (L05), above, by Robert Johnson III.