Student Spotlight: Alyah Shoulders


Alyah Shoulders is a Junior, and her major is Illustration with an emphasis in sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC).  She is a Cincinnati native, who graduated from Colerain High School and currently lives in the Colerain community. Alyah is a shy and quiet young woman with dynamic visions of becoming one the best female animators of all time.  She is a huge fan of Disney animated films, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast, are among her favorites.

When the time came to select a school, she ultimately selected the AAC due to the fact she immediately noticed the faculty and staff were kind and willing to help her in anyway.  After her portfolio review and during a tour of the building with the admissions team, she was introduced to Professor Ken Henson.  He took her sketch book and presented an impromptu critique of her work. She was a bit overwhelmed, but immediately knew AAC is the place for her.

According to Alyah, “If you are willing to make the sacrifice and work hard, you can make your dreams come true.”  The Art Academy is a great place for people like her to thrive.  Despite her shyness, she has been able to meet like-minded classmates, who are fated to be life-long friends.  “If you need help raising your hand in class, there is someone there to help push your hand even higher.  I know this from personal experience. If you see someone who needs art supplies, you share your art supplies.  It’s that simple.  Everyone here helps one another.”

Her involvement as a focused student is pointing her in the right direction to fulfill her ambitions. She’s made the commitment to work hard and take in every lesson or opportunity to hone her craft.  We have no doubt we will witness Alyah Shoulders blossom into a world-class animator.


President’s Reception for the Helm’s Trust


It was an evening of recognition and celebration at the Presidents Reception on Friday, September 25th when 50 friends of the Art Academy gathered for refreshments, camaraderie and a chance to mingle with some of our student, faculty and alumnae artists. Remarks were shared by Dick Friedman, Chairman of the AAC Board of Trustees; John Sullivan, AAC President; Len Weakley Jr. Director of the The William G. and Mary Jane Helms Charitable Foundation. Derek Alderfer and Katelyn Wolary, both recipients of a Helms Trust Award, talked about their art and their student experience at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Derek Alderfer is a freelance illustrator from Fairfield, OH who graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s BFA program in 2015. He considers himself an aspiring children’s book illustrator who works as a painter using mostly traditional media. “I was so humbled to have gotten 2nd place in 2015′s Helms Trust Award competition. I’d never entered my work in a show that granted awards, especially against my own friends and peers. I very fondly look back on having hung my work next to theirs, and winning among some of them. In the end I was proud of everyone who entered. The judge’s decision showed me that my newest work was truly unique and worth pursuing, and since then I’ve continued pushing myself to make my best work.”

Katelyn Wolary commented, “It’s an honorable award, with a history of great artists and work selected.  I’m very happy to be in my school’s collection, and feel very grateful for the opportunities I’ve received so far in my time at AAC.  I have reinvested the award money back into my education, which is a great feeling!”

CPS Selects Art Academy of Cincinnati to Partner on Art Integration


The Art Academy of Cincinnati will administer new artistic programming at Chase Elementary and Woodford Paideia Academy schools as part of the CPS My Tomorrow Vision 20/20 plan, it was jointly announced today by The Art Academy of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).

 “CPS is pleased to partner with the Art Academy of Cincinnati to enhance and expand arts integration in these two elementary schools.  We value their history and tradition of providing exceptional artistic training to students of all ages,” says Dr. Isidore Rudnick, who led this artistic initiative through My Tomorrow, a multifaceted program that is rolling out and expanding throughout Cincinnati Public Schools.  “The Arts & Culture Programs at Chase and Woodford Paideia focus on educating the whole child through a broad range of academic and artistic opportunities including field study days at The Art Academy.

 A driving force behind the CPS My Tomorrow program is preparing students for life by developing the 21st century skills required for success in virtually every profession.  These skills are rooted in critical and creative-thinking abilities. Visual arts disciplines foster these important skills as students combine and apply artistic and intellectual disciplines to imagine, create, realize, and refine new solutions in conventional and innovative ways. The Arts & Culture Program features an integrated and dynamic curriculum that includes residencies with some of Cincinnati’s most respected artists, world culture studies, and music and dance classes. 

 “For nearly 25 years, the Art Academy has supported and strengthened local elementary, junior high and high schools with in-the-classroom art classes, after-school art programs, summertime art camps, and programs offered throughout Greater Cincinnati, throughout the entire year.  To solidify this relationship with a contract signifies that both parties recognize the ongoing value of intentional art integration to enhance the student learning experience,” says John Sullivan, president of Art Academy of Cincinnati.


It’s a Doin’ Thing


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.


Student Spotlight: Brevyn Fleming and Norwood View Elementary


My name is Brevyn Fleming. I’m going on my 3rd year at the Art Academy studying Illustration, and I’m finding that I can work in many different media and styles to fit a project. This large-scale painting in children’s-book-style art is a testament to the flexibility I’ve learned in the last two years.

The Art Academy was asked to design and paint a mural when Miller-Valentine’s Adopt-A-Class group decided that they would refurbish Norwood View Elementary’s playground, courtyard, and the tunnel that connected them.

They contacted us early in 2016, and a small group of the student ambassadors began talking over designs in February after we saw the area we’d be painting and met some of the kids from the school. I was chosen as the lead artist because of my experience with illustrative styles and my ability to use photoshop for the design.

The mural that was originally in the courtyard was over 20 years old and hardly used any color—it didn’t make the courtyard a very exciting or cozy place to be. I decided to run with an animal and nature theme to counter the urban environment around the school, and many of the kids said they liked animals and sports. We painted the entire mural in the last 3 weeks of April and the beginning of May, finishing it just before their Playground Dedication on May 5th.

Miller-Valentine provided the paint, brushes, and scaffolding, and Matt Dayler and Justin Toland projected the images on the wall for us. Cecilia Padilla, Madison Leigh, Brittany Harrington, Rachel Liston, Vera Thornbury, Aaron Broughton, Julia Waldorf, Andrea Bacca, Nick Paddock, Tanner Browne, and Galen Crawford all helped paint whenever they could.

class pic


finished stitched

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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