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Lab-of-the-Month: The School of Visual Arts General Access Lab

By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager

Located in Room 232 of the Art Building, the School of Visual Arts General Access Lab provides an environment especially conducive to the creation and development of art and artistic skills. In addition to all of the standard General Access Lab hardware and applications, this facility has a variety of special equipment and software to bring out the Picasso in everyone.

photo of SOVA PC classroom
Some of the PCs available in the SOVA General Access Lab

The SOVA lab is divided into three sections. A central room with approximately 40 machines - equally divided between the Macintosh and PC platforms - is available at all times. Additionally, a classroom with 20 PCs and a classroom with 20 Macs flank this facility and are open for general access lab use when courses are not in session. The Mac classroom is especially exciting for Apple fans with 20 Titanium towers. Besides all these machines, the Art lab has one of the largest peripheral inventories of all of the general access facilities. Several DVD-Roms, CD-RWs and Jaz drives are available as well as five Macintosh scanners (one is large format with transparency capabilities), three PC scanners and three PC film/slide scanners. Most unusual is their large selection of printing possibilities: three standard laser printers are accompanied by two large format color plotters, one color LaserJet printer, and a Lexmark inkjet printer for photo printing. One of the laser printers has been dedicated to Vellum printing and was established for patrons in the printmaking classes.

photo of SOVA Mac classroom
Mac addicts can get their fix with the cool new Titanium Towers in the SOVA lab!"

Some restrictions apply to equipment use as many of these highly specialized tools are costly and difficult to maintain. Color LaserJet printing, vellum printing, and large format plotting are restricted. Patrons must clear their work through the checkin desk before a job will print to a restricted printer. No web printing is allowed on these printers and patrons are encouraged to only print one final copy to the restricted printers. By following these guidelines the lab is still able to offer free printing on these machines which use quite expensive materials and inks.

As an occasional user of the SOVA lab for my own work, I can testify to the fact that their staff is helpful and accommodating with the large array of much more complicated software and hardware than is found in the other labs. As dedicated artists, they are eager to help a fledgling such as myself utilize their facility as appropriate to UNT work and research. With approximately 1900 students, lab staff deal with all levels of patron requests and experience. Some of the primary users of the lab include students enrolled in Computers in Art which introduces some of the fundamental applications used in digital art including PhotoShop, Illustrator, and Quark. Other classes that meet and work in the lab include Computers in Fashion which utilizes a modified CAD system to design clothing patterns, AutoCAD for Interiors, Computer Game Art which employs 3D modeling software, and Multimedia Production. Vellum and photo printing are used by students for final projects in photography and printmaking classes and other typography and communication design courses.

Manager Kenneth "Kacey" Close emphasizes the fact that the SOVA lab is designed especially to contribute to a patron's creative and emotional expression. More "laid back" in atmosphere (they have wonderful dimmed lights!) and attitude than many of the other general access labs, the SOVA facility celebrates the aesthetic diversity of its primary user population. Future plans for the lab include the addition of 15 Macs and 15 PCs to their already expansive inventory. For a complete listing of all the software and hardware available in this facility see the SOVA lab Website at: http://www.art.unt.edu/about/facilities/labs/computer/index.htm.