Julie Klear: Zid Zid

 

Atelier de Zid Zid Kids à Tanger

My story starts in Toledo, Ohio where I was an ambitious, shy, young art student ready to tackle a life in the arts. At age 18 in 1990, I discovered the Art Academy nestled in Mt. Adams through a friend. I fell in love with the charm of the art buildings, the professors and the European-style neighborhood. I applied and was accepted.My time at the Art Academy opened my eyes in ways that still hold a lasting impression on me and my around the world, full circle journey.

Community was one. To this day, I treasure the friendships I formed in those first years of being on my own. My classmates brought me inspiration, laughter, tears, adventures and always guidence. The quality of the professors was another, from April Foster to Gary Gaffney, to Tony Bachelor, Jay Zumeta, Jay Bolotin, Kal Kowal and others, I was always in good hands as they pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

Under April Foster’s careful eye, printmaking was my area of focus. For the next three years, she guided us quietly yet boldly through the processes of rollers, inks, printing methods, baths of etching acids, the magic of lithography and gorgeous papers that felt like velvet. More importantly, she pushed us to make work that mattered to us as individuals and to make sure the quality of our work was always flawless and first-class.

As an introverted student, this personal and welcoming environment, helped me ease any fears in creating quality work. Work made with meaning and integrity, work that mattered to me, work formed with care and craftsmanship. The AAC experience gave me the confidence and the foundation to take on bigger parts of the world and bigger creative projects which brings me to today.

Quiet yet filled with wanderlust, I left the cozy AAC nest for NYC where I met my husband Moulay Essakalli, joined him in Boston, where we became parents. This led us to going further and jumping the ocean to Morocco where Moulay is from. “We’ll be back in 6 months!” we told everyone. Immersed in beauty, culture,amazing food, three languages, a second child, and our new business, before we knew it, fifteen awesome years flew by.

It’s here, in Marrakech, where we created our first company, Zid Zid Kids. A children’s lifestyle brand inspired by how kids play, we designed and manufactured toys, accessories, furnishings ( full story here ) with passion. Our products were found in 20 countries, received international awards and press, even recognition from President Obama in 2010 at the 1st Global Entrepreneurship Summit. We were proud to build inspiring products and spaces for kids.

But, as things go, it was time for a pivot once again. Even though we loved manufacturing, we became intrigued with the intersection of languages, design and how kids play. We were surrounded with three languages on a daily basis as a family and in the Moroccan culture, where I learned French and Arabic outside of any formal instruction. During teaching creative art classes for French families in Marrakech, parents asked, “please teach our children English during art class!”. With that, Moulay and I tried this crazy approach of blending art and languages through multiple classes and workshops in different countries (Morocco, Bahrain,UAE, Belgium) and it worked. Kids soaked it up, parents were thrilled.

It became learning a language through doing, learning through the arts, learning through creativity, learning through being present, not learning a language through flashcards, memorization or a digital app. This discovery gave us pause. We asked ourselves if this approach had any worth and if it could have a larger reach?

And with that, the new Zid Zid was born. We are an unusual tech company focused on empowering kids to discover world languages with their parents, all through creative play.

We built an alpha in Morocco which tested so well with parents, we were excited. At the same time, my father’s failing health pulled heavily on my Ohio heart-strings. We also then discovered dynamic Wendy Lea and The Brandery. We applied to The Brandery upon Wendy’s recommendation and held our breath, as they are one of the top 10 accelerators in the USA! We hoped, we wished, and were ready to make the leap over the ocean a second time, this time back to the Queen City, if they would have us.

In June, The Brandery welcomed us with open arms. We came ready to build something amazing, all over again.

OTR is not the same as it was in the 90’s when I lived on Main Street during my last year at AAC. The AAC solidly sits now in it’s new (to me!) home right outside my new OTR apartment window. One of my favorite professors Gary Gaffney, took the time to warmly welcome me back with an extensive tour paired with his bright, infectious smile. The amazing Joan Kaup brought us into her community with her contagious energy and willingness to help us feel settled. Beautiful architecture, delightful craft beers, vibrant #StartupCincy energy, Gomez, Union Hall, our Brandery mentors, old best friends, Washington Park has replaced fresh clementines at the market, swaying palm trees, cooing mourning doves, luxurious palaces, our Atelier, Friday couscous, dear friends, an intoxicating Medina, views of two oceans, the magnificent Atlas Mountains and the magic of the Sahara Desert.

Forever filled with wanderlust, I still know where the Heartland is. I am happy to be again in it’s warm embrace of community, drive, excellence in the arts and in always doing your best. Recent Zid Zid highlights include The Big Idea Award from the Cincinnati’s World Class Innovation Tech Summit, an event featuring over 40 of Cincinnati’s best and brightest Startup companies, 50+ vendor and exhibitor booths, with robust speaker/panels focused on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Zid Zid has two upcoming pilots with the YMCA and the CAC. Join us to continue the story!

www.zidzid.com

It’s a Doin’ Thing

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Bruce Riley is one of those cool cats who you just want to hang out with all afternoon at an outside café drinking something hard and cool, eating tacos and talking about the mysteries of this crazy thing called life. To the contrary, when Bruce and I met, we were inside in The Commons, not drinking or eating, but we were talking about some of the mysterious aspects of this thing called the artist’s life.

Bruce is a Cincinnati native but now lives up the road a bit in Chicago.  He still comes down to Cincy regularly to visit family.  This time, however, he was in town for his show opening at the Miller Gallery in Hyde Park. Do yourself a favor and see his awesome and amazing paintings.  The show is currently running until June 25.

Accompanied by his wife, Kelly McKaig, and sister Brenda Campbell, Bruce was gracious to spend some time with me and share his story and some sound advice to the upcoming generation of young artists.

Riley attended the Art Academy during the mid 70’s. He did not graduate but did take classes only when they were paid for by someone else. He saw early on that educational debt was crushing to young artists. When not in school, he would use his own money to rent a studio and continued working on his own. The impression I got was that he was grateful for the structure academics, but the real learning came in doing things on his own – a rebel with a cause you might say.

In Bruce’s view to be an artist is to simply do the art.  Experiment. Learn. Make mistakes. Become the expert. When possible love. Expand your view by reading, talking to others and never, ever stop doing the craft.  In his experience, an artist really does not come into their own until the age of 35. Bruce states, “When one works hard at ones art, that individual will have a killer skill by the age of 35. You start really finding your own voice.”That is when the consistently working artist reaches the threshold of having a recognizable name.

He describes his day as being beautifully boring.  He gets up around 6 AM, putters around the house for a bit as he chases away the night’s slumber with a cup of coffee, then off to his studio which is across the street.

While in the studio, he focuses in on the work. Riley said, “In the work ideas come and go. Ideas are the goo that mutates into the next awareness. This is the stuff that comes up when you are consistently working.”  For him, and probably for most prolific and successful artists, ritual, routine and discipline is what drives the momentum to keep creating.  Not to say that from time to time, inspiration is just not going to show up for the day, but overall he goes to work daily.

Additional advice Riley has for the emerging artist is to take risks. Physically. Mentally. Financially. He didn’t pay attention to conventional wisdom along the way.  To him it did not make sense to work at a “day” job that sucked all of your creative energy 40 plus hours a week only to make just enough money to live. This version of living renders the artist to be a weekend warrior.  He was not interested in that scenario.  He KNEW he was going to make his living as a working artist.

And he does by creating and selling is art so that he can afford his materials, studio and the beautiful boring life he has with his wife in Chicago.  After all to sell and share your art is the goal-right?

To see the latest work by Bruce Riley, go to the Miller Gallery in Hyde Park.  Click here to watch a documentary short on Bruce Riley and his work.

 

Beloved Minumental Exhibition Celebrates 29 Years

Genius comes in all shapes and sizes, but at the annual AAC Minumental Exhibition, no masterpiece can exceed two inches in any direction. That’s what makes it one of the best and most beloved shows among AAC students, faculty and alums year after year.

This past February, the AAC Alumni Committee hosted the 29th Annual Minumental Show at the student-run Exposure13 Gallery in Over-the-Rhine. Hundreds of art lovers attended the exhibition, and more than 200 pieces were sold netting nearly $2000 in sales. For many students, this show presents the opportunity to make that “first sale” as an artist. It also provides exposure and recognition for the impressive work created by our AAC community at large.

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2015 Beaux Arts Ball a Huge Success

It was an evening of elegance, beauty and fun. The 2015 Beaux Arts Ball, hosted by the Alumni Association, brought together hundreds of Art Academy supporters to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of AAC’s historic move to Over-the-Rhine.

Honored guests included the Eleanora C. U. Alms Trust, Fifth Third Bank Trustee; The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation; The Kaplan Foundation; The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation; P & G; Western & Southern Financial Group; John Ruthven, Alumni; and Carl Solway.

For decades, the AAC has carried on the Beaux Arts Ball tradition, originally inspired by art students at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. The riotous revelry has been revived many times throughout the history of the event in Cincinnati, and over the years, it has been hosted in many different locales, including the old Art Academy building in Mt. Adams, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the new AAC building on Jackson Street. To accommodate the large number of guests, the 2015 ball was held at the Verdin Bell Event Centre in Pendleton. The space was transformed into dazzling Venetian palazzo, thanks to the students and alumni of the AAC, who created original artwork and decorations inspired by the masked balls of Venice.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our sponsors for Venezia Carnevale, the 2015 masquerade Beaux Arts Ball: Hubbell Trust, The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, Chavez Properties, Miller Valentine Group, Brian L. Tiffany & Company, The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, The Kaplan Foundation and John Isidore and Sandy Kaltman.

Save the Date for 2019, when the Art Academy of Cincinnati will celebrate its 150th anniversary!

Alumna Christine Carli

See more from our Beaux Arts Ball page

 

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AAC Alumnae Bring Beanbags to a Park Near You

Picture this: Giant. Beanbags. You read that right. This is the vision of Art Academy of Cincinnati grads, Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius. And thanks to grant from People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab devoted to accelerating the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati, soon they’ll be coming to a city park, a bike path or even the lobby of government building near you.

Plop! a project dreamed up by Scarpello and Cornelius, is designed to create engagement and bring an element of whimsy to the city’s public spaces. We recently caught up with Scarpello to chat with her about the project and what life has been like since graduating from AAC.

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