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At the School of Visual Arts (SVA), the creative experience does not stop at the classroom doors. Besides a rigorous curriculum taught by world-class professional artists, students are encouraged to find inspiration for their artist’s voice in diverse environments with members of their communities helping to spur their own creative work.

Three animation departments at SVA enthusiastically support many opportunities to foster young creatives, including mentorship connections through the Mentorship, Advice and Relationship Services (M.A.R.S.) student club, the chance to travel to the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), and community networking events with the Women in Animation (WIA) Student Collective.

In September, seven students from both the BFA Animation and MFA Computer Arts departments were invited to travel across the border to attend the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) in Canada. Known for showcasing cutting-edge films and work on the fringes of the art form, the festival provided inspiration to students in countless surprising ways. They were able to roam the festival, meet peers from other schools, and hear from animation filmmakers from around the world.

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Photo of (left to right) current MFA Computer Arts students Jessica Reisch, Rebecca Huang, Agastya Warrior, and I-Wen Chen, with Chris Robinson (second from right, OIAF, Artistic Director).

BFA Animation Senior Student Representative, Kaylee Park, recounts her experience traveling to the OIAF:

This was my first experience with the animation industry outside of New York City. I was immersed in the community outside of my usual environment as well as watching work that was created outside of the usual box. In the midst of a troubled and turbulent change in the industry, watching people come together to experience and talk about animation has filled my heart with hope and excitement for what’s to come for us.

Teo Nalani, another BFA Animation Student Representative who traveled with the group, shares:

It was a different kind of storytelling than we’re used to. It was awesome to see what’s possible outside of the traditional storytelling structures. It was also great to be surrounded by other artists and so many different kinds of animation projects. I am inspired to make more stuff and let my art be more free.

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Photo of (left to right) Brooke Burnett (BFA 2023 Animation), Kaylee Park (current student), Sam Lee (department staff), and Teo Nalani (current student) in front of the Bytowne Cinema at Ottawa International Animation Festival.

SVA is home to a plethora of specialized and student-run clubs. M.A.R.S. is unique to the BFA 3D Animation and Visual Effects department. The club was founded by former Pixar technical director and a current Method Studios cg supervisor Christina Faraj during her time as a student at SVA. Each semester the club hosts a variety of events, including tech demos with industry professionals in addition to a mentorship program where freshmen and sophomores connect with juniors and seniors.

Seogene Lee, the club’s leader and a mentor, says:

We (M.A.R.S.) place students’ interests and needs first and foremost. We also look out for industry-standard skills and trends […] and continue to bring in motivational speakers from the industry for SVA students to make connections and seek inspiration.

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Photo(s) of Ollie Yao (BFA 2023 3D Animation and Visual Effects), conducting a tech demo on stylized texturing in Blender. Ollie and thesis partner Heather Yun’s film Twin Sparks was a semi-finalist at the 2023 Student Academy Awards.

Lee’s mentee Hayden Glover shared with us some of their experiences in M.A.R.S.’s mentorship program. Glover joined M.A.R.S. this fall and was drawn to the club’s environment, community, and opportunities to interact with and learn more from his peers:

Even though it’s only been a semester, with the help of my mentor I feel as if I have already greatly improved my modeling skills which truly makes me appreciate M.A.R.S.

Animation students looking to integrate clubs into their academic lives have found a helpful community in SVA’s Student Collective of WIA (Women in Animation). Student members can take advantage of various opportunities ranging from career-readiness events like studio tours and portfolio reviews with industry professionals to talent development workshops to help members develop their hard and soft professional skills. SVA WIA promotes equity, empowers, and advocates for underrepresented students in one of the NYC area’s largest communities of young animators, both academically and professionally. Membership is open to all, regardless of gender identity.

MFA Computer Arts student and WIA SVA president Jessica Reisch describes the club’s role in her academic life:

Joining the club was a fantastic opportunity to get to know other students outside of my department. I was already a volunteer with WIA’s NYC Chapter, where I helped to organize studio tours for students. I brought that experience with me to SVA, and have continued to make studio tours a priority. These are some of our most sought-after events; the sign-ups fill within minutes of release.

Describing how the organization will continue to impact her after graduation, Reisch states:

My role as president of WIA SVA has broadened the horizons of my SVA community far beyond what would have been possible if I were not involved in the club. Studio tours and talks with industry professionals have provided me with invaluable insight, and discussions and connections with other members have nourished my interests and passion for this work.

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Photo of the WIA SVA Fall 2023 kick-off meeting introducing student officers Jessica Reisch, Nikki Behjat, Nix Sharp, and Alexandra Donsky.

The most impactful stories are those that carry inspiration from everyone, everything, and everywhere. Experiences outside of the classroom are important to the development of one’s artistic voice and essential to navigating an ever-changing industry. The School of Visual Arts provides many opportunities for growth and community to provide a well-rounded experience for its students.

Learn more about our BFA Animation, BFA 3D Animation and Visual Effects, and MFA Computer Arts programs at SVA.edu.

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