Published on June 24, 2024  
Wink Winkler Speaking in Saudi Arabia

Wink Winkler, a digital arts instructor at Samford University, recently embarked on a professional development trip to Saudi Arabia. This marked Winkler's first time traveling outside the U.S, and the experience was nothing short of transformative. He was deeply touched by the international culture and the warm-heartedness of the Saudi Arabian people.

Saudi Conference Participants

The American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia (AMCHAM) and the U.S. Embassy sponsored the Saudi Film Festival, where Winkler was invited to speak about how artificial intelligence (AI) plays a role in the digital art world. There, he showcased his expertise by teaching a workshop on visual storytelling with Travis Blaise, chief creative officer of SketchToAnimate and a former animator for industry heavyweights like Disney and Warner Brothers.

The festival spanned seven days, and Winkler was present for the entire duration, extending his stay to a total of 10 days. The event was attended by a few thousand people, and entry was only granted through an application process.

Throughout his stay, Winkler had the opportunity to meet members of the U.S. Embassy and gain a global knowledge of amazing stories told in other countries. He was particularly captivated by the unique narratives of the Saudi people, stories filled with originality and a fresh perspective.

Saudi Conference DiscussionsWinkler's Saudi sojourn took him to Dammam where he stayed at the World Center of Ithra, a historic site built atop oil well #9, the first location where oil was found in Saudi Arabia. He described the experience as akin to attending a condensed, intense college class on Saudi culture.

A passionate advocate for the use of AI as a tool in art, Winkler also led a masterclass on the use of AI in animation and film. He emphasized the need for students to adapt to technological evolution, as society has continuously evolved with the introduction of new technologies. Winkler believes that AI can enhance our capabilities and efficiency, acting as a multiplier that can improve project quality and speed when used correctly.

Despite advancements in AI, Winkler emphasizes its lack of human touch and emotion, especially in storytelling. He persistently teaches his students the importance of utilizing their creativity in the game design industry and preserving the human emotion that fosters relatability and connection.

Winkler's journey to Saudi Arabia was a testament to the timeless advice he often heard: "You need to get out of the country and see the world from a different perspective." He will incorporate this experience into his teaching, continuing to nurture creativity among his students.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.