UNC Greensboro’s (UNCG) new animation concentration in the bachelors of fine arts (BFA) program is giving students a chance to explore new artistic avenues. And now, the UNCG animation club is offering students a chance to connect through their love for the art.
The club meets every other Thursday for workshops including activities like storyboarding, practicing traditional animation, or creating characters around a central theme.
“A lot of these workshops are about thinking and collaborating, and we also talk about things going on in the media, in the industry, related to animation,” says Jessica Cunningham, the president of the animation club.
ANIMATING A NEW PROGRAM
In Fall 2022, the School of Art launched a BFA animation concentration.
Assistant Professor Dan Hale ‘01 says the pieces to create the concentration already existed at UNCG, but they needed to be further developed to create the full program.
“It has been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of fun. We’re seeing huge interest,” says Hale, who is also the faculty advisor for the animation club.
With more than twenty students now enrolled, the program is continually growing. Students in the concentration study a wide variety of disciplines including concept art, character design, and storyboarding as well as traditional 2D hand-drawn work to advanced CGI 3D modeling and animation. The program culminates in a yearlong project to create an animated short film.
School of Art students start in the bachelor of arts (BA) program for foundational courses in their first year. At the end of their first year, they must then apply through portfolio review to be accepted into the BFA in Studio Art program. The animation concentration is within the BFA in Studio Art program.
Cunningham says if the option was available when she was choosing a degree program, she would have loved the experience.
“There were not a lot of animation programs in North Carolina that spoke to me,” says Cunningham, who is a senior studying studio art. “When I was applying to college, I knew UNCG was one of the best schools for liberal arts, so this was the best place for me to get my basics in studio art.”
A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
But the club is not just for those studying animation – students from all backgrounds are showing interest.
“The vast majority of animations are collaborative works. It’s pretty rare that one individual makes the entire thing by themselves because it requires so many different skills,” Hale says. “That’s one of the really beautiful things about the medium is the collaboration and sense of community.”
Club member David Garcia says, even though he’s studying for a BFA in Printmaking and Drawing, he still loves animation and the club gives him a feeling of belonging.
“I’ve honestly never had this experience in any school where there is a gathering of students with the same interest as me,” Garcia says.
Like Garcia, club founder and alumnus Duncan Lauer ‘22 was also not an animation student, but rather a Media Studies major.
“I’ve always been into animation,” says Lauer. “Animation and film are inextricably linked. Media studies has an animation class, so I was taking classes and wanted to meet other like-minded people and have a space for animators.”
SPACE FOR CREATIVITY
Lauer approached Hale to start the club – a familiar interest for Hale who also graduated from UNCG with a bachelor of arts in Media Studies.
“I was very much focused on filmmaking. I loved animation, but I didn’t think I was the best person in the room when it came to drawingI didn’t think that it was something I could create,” says Hale. “Turns out, that’s not true. Animation is really about observation and expression, and drawing is only one path toward achieving a moving performance.”
Enjoying the art is what the club is all about. It can also be an outlet for students studying animation who want a break from the work of their course load.
The club began with about 10 people in fall 2022 and now 30 to 40 people have attended 2023 meetings.
“I think one of the best ways to learn something is to have hard work but also have a space where you can be involved in the work you want to do in a relaxed way,” Lauer says.
Cunningham says she’s been pleasantly surprised that people return week after week – and continue to be animated about the work.
“I wasn’t sure if people would be collaborative and share ideas because sometimes people are hesitant to share,” says Cunningham. “Even if animation is something you’ve never thought about, come see us. We welcome everybody.”
STUDY ANIMATION AT UNCG
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications