Henry LaBounta | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Henry LaBounta

Alumni Headshot


BFA, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Spring 2024 CUT/PASTE Feature: 

Henry LaBounta ‘82 has had dozens of interesting roles and job titles during his long career in visual effects, from being the Dreamworks VFX lead who parted the Red Sea in The Prince of Egypt, to being the official tornado designer on the movie Twister. But since moving in 2020 to the  Minneapolis’s East Isles neighborhood with his wife, Barbara, local media have given him a  new title–“The Trash Hero of Uptown''–for removing several tons of garbage from Lake of the Isles. 

LaBounta’s clean-up campaign started during the pandemic, when he wheeled his kayak to the lake for an inaugural voyage, only to find the shoreline littered with garbage. He says, “It was like a giant bathtub full of trash and I thought, ‘I don’t accept this.’” That first day he collected as much refuse as he could fit into his kayak. Soon after, he returned in borrowed, chest-high waders to make trash pick-up his ongoing project. “Cleaning up feels like the price of admission for enjoying this beautiful, natural resource,” says LaBounta. After organizing a group of neighbors, they’ve collected more than 4,300 gallons of trash just last year and over 120 syringes over the past couple years. “If you want to enjoy nature, you’ve got to take care of it.”

Though he may sound like a Sustainable Design major, LaBounta was actually one of the first MCAD students to study computer-generated art and design. “Just to give you an idea of all of the changes that can happen in a lifetime, when I was a student at MCAD, there was a small room that looked like a broom closet where they put an Apple II computer,” he says. “Nobody went into that room except for me. I thought it was fascinating, but I got a lot of flak from other students wondering, ‘Why would you ever use a computer to make art?’’’ Undeterred, LaBounta took several additional elective courses in computer science at Macalester College before setting out on a career path that’s included stints at Industrial Light & Magic, Dreamworks, Electronic Arts, and other video-game makers where he’s served as Visual Effects Supervisor and Senior Art Director, bringing big-screen CGI effects to the gaming world. 

Now semi-retired, LaBounta is taking full advantage of the alumni discount for MCAD’s continuing education classes, kick-starting his own creative practice by studying drawing, painting, and portraiture. He’s also planning to help MCAD host an Earth Day clean-up of neighboring Morrison Park and its surrounds, an effort he believes is a natural fit for the MCAD community. “As artists and makers, we know how to work with our hands to get things done. It’s natural for us artists to see the potential in our environments,”  he says. “You could also argue that cleaning up is a form of art. Who doesn’t want things to look more beautiful, or at least appealing?”