Taylor Gordon, a 2021 winner of The Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarships, was inspired to work in live entertainment after seeing Peter Nigrini’s design for Dear Evan Hansen when she was in high school. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In September, Gordon will be a junior on the lighting design track, but she also has a strong interest in projection design and has focused on teaching herself content creation and 3D modelling. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in projection design for Broadway and concerts.
The Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarships, funded by LDI and Live Design, were introduced to support the underrepresented and unique voices in the field of entertainment design and are presented in partnership with TSDCA and USITT, for undergraduate students.
Live Design: Why did you apply for the Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship?
Taylor Gordon: In my search for scholarships to apply for, I came across this one and noted there was something different about it. I was immediately drawn to the message it conveyed; a scholarship that focused on diversity. I had never before seen one like it for our industry and I knew this was something special!
LD: What made you interested in the fields of lighting and projection design?
TG: In high school I developed a strong passion for projection design after seeing Peter Nigrini’s work in Dear Evan Hansen. From there I immersed myself into learning projection mapping, content creation, and 3D modeling. I decided to pursue a degree in lighting design in order to use what I learn and build on that knowledge for a career in projection design.
LD: What are some of your career goals?
TG: Once I graduate I want to become a projection designer and continue to grow in this unique art form. One day I would love to design projections for Broadway, theme parks, concerts, and even some installations. If it can be projected on, I want to pursue it!
LD: How can the industry better serve underrepresented communities?
TG: I think the best way for the industry to serve underrepresented communities is to give us a voice. I believe we, as an industry, are becoming more inclusive and diverse in so many ways; however, I think we can push this even further. I would love for anyone and everyone to feel that they are welcome to share their ideas or art without any hesitation.
LD: Who or what are your influences, in terms of people or events?
TG: I would have to say my biggest influences are those who took the time to share their knowledge and techniques with me. Lisa Renkel, who is a projections designer and an alumni from the UNCSA Lighting Design program, has given me a lot of inspiration. She took the time to take me under her wing and teach me the base of my content creation skills. Also Elaine McCarthy, a projections designer who took the time to talk with me over Skype as I started to become interested in lighting and projections. She was the first female in the industry I ever talked to and she gave me the encouragement to pursue this field. Peter Nigrini, a projections designer as well, also took the time to Skype call me when I was just getting into the field. He gave me insight into his different tricks of the trade and encouraged me to pursue this field as well. I was also influenced by Brian Ketcham, my high school teacher and theatre technical director. He made the connection with all of these amazing designers possible, but also introduced me to this art form in the first place. I have to include my professors: Eric Rimes, Josh Selander, and Clifton Taylor, who have also encouraged and challenged me to strive for my goals. My peers are also a huge inspiration. Being around such talented people as my classmates drives me to accomplish my own goals!
LD: Are there particular challenges you have faced?
TG: The biggest challenge for me is to have the confidence in myself and my abilities to push past my own limits. Trying to push myself outside of my creative comfort zone is something I often encounter in projects I come across. I have found that if I return to my research and think about why I chose that visual source, my ideas start to flow and that creative block is removed!
LD: What is your number one bucket list item?
TG: My number one bucket list item would definitely have to be to design projections on Broadway. Broadway is what started my passion and I would love to contribute to it one day!
LD: Has the pandemic changed how you view your work or the industry?
TG: Absolutely. The pandemic has made me realize the importance of being able to share art with a live audience. Seeing art in person is a much more fulfilling experience than seeing it through a screen and I’m glad things are opening back up for all artists to share their work with the world! I also think there were some very amazing things we, as an industry, learned to do during the pandemic. Whether that is learning how to light through a camera or create a virtual experience, I believe that deserves to be recognized as well. My program at UNCSA integrated learning how to light a design through a camera lens into our production classes this past year, and I think adding this integral skill during a time when this was becoming imperative in our industry is truly remarkable!
Click here for more scholarship winners from 2021 and previous years.