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‘The cusp of the art world’: BRCC exhibit explores pros, cons of AI in everyday life

Students, faculty and community members enjoy the opening reception of “Fractured Reflections: Navigating AI, Cybersecurity, and the Shifting Self” at BRCC Tuesday afternoon. Photos by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

An art exhibit of student and faculty works opened today at Blue Ridge Community College with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on humans.

The exhibit is made possible by grant funding as part of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) at BRCC, “Cyber Insecurity: Exploring Vulnerabilities of Artificial Intelligence Through Visual Art.”

BRCC Dean of Academic Affairs Marlena Jarboe said that the grant funding will create diverse career possibilities, establish Virginia as a global center for excellence in cybersecurity and serve as a catalyst for economic diversification in the Commonwealth.

The goal of the art exhibit was to talk about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence.

“We did a great job of showing that through art,” Jarboe said.

Jerome Sturm is a professor at BRCC and has been a digital photographer for 30 years.

“I see AI being kind of the cusp with the art world,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s going to change how art is done, created.”

In three to five days, each student with work in the exhibit created a piece with the assistance of AI.

“It will not replace art. It will definitely change the art business,” Sturm said of AI.

He added that students found when AI is presented with images of hands, eyes and ears, the technology automatically creates a human face.

According to Professor Dr. Dan O’Brien, who teaches computer science and IT, BRCC is the first college which was awarded a grant that included students in the project.

“One of the things we found was, when we let the students kind of run with it, they came up with all of these amazing ideas,” O’Brien said.

He highlighted the piece “Steal Your Face” in the exhibit, a TV screen with a webcam, and said that the piece forces viewers to realize that when they enter retail stores, their images are recognized and shared with other retail stores in the United States. AI in retail has become “intrusive” in shopping.

In “Honorable Mention,” BRCC professor Dr. Robert Oliver said he illustrated the idea of how AI generates phishing emails. His mixed media piece is his reaction to repetitive, unwanted emails.

“I teach computer science here. It’s always an ever-present topic that’s looming over everything that we do,” Oliver said of AI.

After 20 years of teaching at BRCC, Oliver said he sees some positive impacts of AI, such as the production of new jobs that humans have yet to realize and making IT and other jobs less tedious. AI will make program and software develop also less tedious.

“The danger is how much more sophisticated scams are going to be now,” Oliver said.

“Honorable Mention” was created in approximately two or three months.

“Honorable Mention” by Dr. Robert Oliver is on display at BRCC through April 15 and will be on display at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria in October 2024.

“I think [AI] will probably replace a lot of entry-level jobs and also it will make disinformation much easier to generate,” Oliver said.

“Fractured Reflections: Navigating AI, Cybersecurity, and the Shifting Self” will be on display at Blue Ridge Community College through Monday, April 15, 2024, in the Fine Arts Center Galleries.

‘Fractured Reflections’: Art exhibit explores AI, ethical issues at Blue Ridge Community College – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.