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NewsApr 23, 2024

Even after graduation, our students return

Lesley's new Alumni Studio now open to all animation alumni

A photo of the Animation Studio in the basement of University Hall

Life after graduation can be exciting—full of possibilities and potential. It can also be a daunting time for students accustomed to the community, structure, and support that college provides. Tightknit artistic cohorts, in particular, can be difficult to replicate in the world outside of training programs.  

With this in mind, Associate Provost for Art + Design Catriona Baker and Animation Associate Professor Michael Annear teamed up to create an Alumni Studio to give students the chance to keep creating and collaborating at Lesley after graduation, and to serve as “a bridge from academia into professional practice,” according to Annear.  

Since Lesley became the only art and design school in New England to offer a Visual Effects Program in 2018, Annear has noticed that Lesley’s centralized, multidisciplinary facilities—which include a greenscreen room, a 144-seat screening room, a render farm, a game studio, computer labs, studios for sound and props, and updated downshoots for traditional animation mediums— set them apart from many other programs.  

Baker shares that view, noting that Animation students experience making films in teams distinguishes them to studios looking for that experience and mentality. As she puts it, “magic in art happens when people can share talent and ideas.”  

Baker and Annear actually began separately mulling over the idea of keeping alumni engaged by providing ongoing studio access. They were thrilled to discover that they were thinking along similar lines. As Baker says, “you know it’s a good idea when you’re not the only one coming up with it.”  

The Alumni Studio, which opened during this academic year, is now a valuable resource for alumni working in digital animation, and also a multidisciplinary space used by graduates of other programs including Illustration, Photography, and Film. This mimics the interdisciplinarity that these programs are embracing for students, as well as the collaboration that graduates will encounter afterward. Baker shares that LA+D will soon offer even more chances to collaborate across genres and skill sets, describing a course that will teach cinematography through a game engine—with animators, game designers, and filmmakers learning blocking at the same time, giving them different perspectives and a shared vocabulary.  

Annear, a Lesley/Art Institute of Boston alumnus himself, has been fortunate to find community and connection naturally in studio settings throughout his career, but sees how this may be more difficult now that many studios have downsized or gone remote. “Making art requires not only passion but also a community and a space to create, so our goal was to have a place that provides both.”  

Baker agrees. “The Alumni Studio is so great because it gives our students a sense of belonging. In school you have that, and then you go out and it can feel like you don’t. A lot of artists work in freelance positions that can feel really lonely, so building a place for alumni to come to is important. Animation is a team sport.”  

That team doesn’t just include alumni. Faculty love to see their former students return and to stay engaged in the work they’re doing. And having them in the building is a great resource for students who can interact with working professionals and ask questions in informal settings.  

“I keep witnessing these amazing organic interactions. It has been hard to get the same energy we had before COVID, and now we have FOMO when we’re not there for a day and don’t know who we’re missing in the hallway,” notes Baker. “It’s really helping to bring us back.”  

These built-in opportunities for learning and engagement are part of what make Lesley Art + Design programs so distinctive, and giving graduates continued access to the spaces and people that help shape careers and forge creative connections ensures they can remain lifelong learners.  

Annear sees alumni using the studio in a variety of ways, “from creating work to add to their professional portfolio and collaborating on personal projects to working freelance.” He notes that the Alumni Studio is still in its early stages, with many exciting plans and possibilities ahead, which could include the studio having its own clients one day, and projects produced by all-alumni teams.  

Several upcoming events will level up the opportunities the Alumni Studio can provide for engagement in the near term, with meetups and critiques that include both alumni and undergraduates. The recent inaugural salon-style event allowed Alumni Studio participants to share their work and get peer feedback. 

Baker and Annear are thrilled to see people take advantage of the studio and other opportunities to stay plugged in at Lesley. “Our alumni are doing so many things to stay connected, which is great,” Annear shares. “From working with Animation faculty on films, to attending local film festivals, visiting LA+D exhibitions, we love to see our alumni networking, staying in touch, and growing as creatives.” 

This growth and sense of community are values that translate from a students’ time at Lesley to the rest of their careers and lives. “It’s so easy to feel adrift after finishing school. But you put everyone who’s adrift in a room and suddenly you’re on a boat together,” says Baker. “This lifelong learning is really what we’re here for.”