A career focused on bringing creative ideas to life
St. Olaf College provided Peter McCrae-Hokenson ’19 with the resources and support to explore his interests, switch majors, travel the world, and find the perfect career path.
A talented photographer and videographer, McCrae-Hokenson honed his skills in design and digital media production as part of the college’s Fifth-Year Emerging Artist Program. Now a web developer at Cloudburst, a software startup in Minneapolis, McCrae-Hokenson is passionate about designing and developing technology that brings creative ideas to life.
“My job is to bring early-stage product ideas to life by designing mock-ups, marketing the idea, and ultimately developing the app,” he says, pointing to the two most recent projects he’s done for QuickTake and GameTheory.
McCrae-Hokenson, who also has his own photography and videography business, says this career path connects the many interests he developed and nurtured during his time at St. Olaf. “I think the work of any artist is to render the beautiful stuff and to interrogate the hard stuff. When I’m out in the world, connecting with people with a camera in my hand, all I can think is, ‘This is the point,'” he says.
Yet McCrae-Hokenson didn’t arrive at St. Olaf with that depth of clarity about his career path. He knew he was interested in entrepreneurship and definitely knew he wanted to play soccer. The men’s soccer team immediately provided McCrae-Hokenson with a community of caring, supportive friends. Finding the right major took longer.
McCrae-Hokenson took a range of classes in economics, math, and computer science while realizing that none was the right fit as a major. Professors and mentors on campus encouraged him to explore his interest in visual design, and he eventually ended up in a class with Professor of Art and Art History John Saurer. That experience — and Saurer’s warm, thoughtful mentorship — helped McCrae-Hokenson find what he wanted to do with his life.
“I think the beauty of a liberal arts education is that you can explore, you can mess up, and there’s time to pivot, to iterate,” McCrae-Hokenson says. “It was immensely helpful.”
St. Olaf provides the community and the resources to dream and have unconventional ideas. You can find your own path. I oscillated between three different majors, and I still found my community here, and the resources that I needed to find what I think is exciting in this world.Peter McCrae-Hokenson ’19
Another experience that proved transformational to developing as a photographer and videographer was participating in St. Olaf’s renowned faculty-led study-abroad program, Global Semester. Through interdisciplinary academic coursework and intensive experiential learning, students immerse themselves in diverse cultures while gaining perspectives on how to live purposely as globally engaged citizens.
“It was an opportunity to travel with 20 students around the world and to see the world through the lenses of five different countries,” McCrae-Hokenson says.
Upon returning from Global Semester, he applied for the Fifth-Year Emerging Artist Program, which offers gifted and self-motivated St. Olaf graduates an intensive art experience to better prepare them for graduate school or a professional career in the arts. Participants in the program prepare work for three different shows: one on campus, one in Northfield, and one at a gallery in Minneapolis. McCrae-Hokenson says the program was critical in helping him develop the skills he now uses in his career.
“St. Olaf provides the community and the resources to dream and have unconventional ideas,” he says. “You can find your own path. I oscillated between three different majors, and I still found my community here, and the resources that I needed to find what I think is exciting in this world.”
The Art of Creating Art: The Fifth-Year Emerging Artists in Action
In this video captured by Director of Creative Services Fernando Sevilla and edited by videographer Aidan Lloyd ’24, Fifth Year Emerging Artists Thomas Hardy ’20 and Paddy Mittag-McNaught ’20 share their process for creating a painting in Flaten Art Museum’s Groot Gallery — and discuss how the program has supported their work.
“It’s really inspiring to be in a place like this, in a position like this, and to use this college and its resources to do things this big that you want to do,” Mittag-McNaught says. “The sky really is the limit.”