Artist and visual arts Prof. Michael Trigilio is among 10 faculty honored with 2013 Distinguished Teaching Awards from UC San Diego’s Academic Senate.


Michael Trigilio wins Distinguished Teaching Award

by Sheena Ghanbari and Dirk Sutro

June 21, 2013

Michael Trigilio is among 10 UC San Diego faculty members recognized with Distinguished Teaching Awards from the university’s Academic Senate. Literature Professor Nicole Tonkovich is the only other recipient from the Division of Arts and Humanities.

“Michael is a brilliant teacher, an inspired program leader, and a unique creative artist,” said Dean of Arts and Humanities Seth Lerer. “He has become a campus leader in new media: the technologies of artistic representation in a digital world. Michael has distinguished himself not only as a classroom teacher but as a mentor for undergraduates in the arts. He understands the creative motivations of our students and how best to focus them into imaginative and, ideally, professional life.”

While the award is for teaching, Trigilio says that his role as an educator is integral to his work as an artist.

“The kind of work I make is all collaborative,” he said. “It’s always about engaging with other people. Teaching is just a natural extension of my art practice.”

Trigilio’s teaching reaches beyond UC San Diego. In an undergraduate class, he guides his students as they mentor the next generation at High Tech High in San Diego. The goal is to prepare underprivileged high school students for careers in the arts and technology, where minority and low-income groups are under-represented. This year, 11 of his UC San Diego undergrads each mentored four or five High Tech High students.

Trigilio’s own art also incorporates new technologies and collaboration.

Tell Them Everthing/Remember Us (T2ERU), for instance, includes two ultra-high-resolution videos (4K), one with digital media artist Trish Stone, the other with the punk rock band Gloomsday.

Project Planetaria poses the question of what would happen if planetariums vanished. The project includes a UC San Diego course taught in collaboration with fellow faculty members Adam Burgasser (physics) and Tara Knight (theatre and dance).  Students utilize astronomical data to create multimedia and interdisciplinary art, and the results can be provocative.

Elliot Norris (physics) and Adrian Phillips (visual arts) examined orbital data from a Kepler telescope (built by NASA to look for another planet like Earth) and produced an “emotional map” of Norris’s Facebook page. Adriana Feketeova (visual arts) and Melissa Tallis (physics) created a video of images of spinning flowers, edited based on data from Jupiter’s moons such as size, distance from the planet, and orbital patterns.

Clearly, Trigilio’s students are inspired by his outside-the-box approach to teaching.

“He shifted my interest in film production toward sound design by giving me the opportunity to experiment with audio software,” said Angela Colgan. “He is one of the most open-minded and encouraging professors I’ve had at UC San Diego.”

For more about Trigilio, see arts writer Kinsee Morlan’s “Messages to the Future,” a profile of Trigilio for KCET-TV public television’s webpage. (Link here:


Left to Right: Michael Trigilio (Visual Arts), Adam Burgasser (Physics), Tara Knight (Theatre & Dance)