Jim Effler Named Distinguished Alumni 2020
The Alumni Council of the Art Academy of Cincinnati is proud to confer upon Jim Effler the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The Art Academy of Cincinnati Alumni Association established this award as our highest honor. The Alum who receive this honor have distinguished themselves by the contributions they have made in their particular field or profession, in service to the Art Academy and to the betterment of humanity.
About Jim Effler
Jim is a professional artist living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally known for airbrush illustration, he now works predominantly in oils, a medium he first explored while attending the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Effler’s style combines painting and digital techniques with traditional methods.
Effler graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1978 with a major in illustration and graphic design. From 1982 until 2000, he was a partner in AIR Studio, which represented more than a dozen regional illustrators. Since then, he has been a full-time independent illustrator.
Over the years, Effler has gained a reputation for his many beer posters and labels. His whimsical illustrations featuring goats are one of the highlights of Cincinnati’s annual Bockfest celebration. The goats have been featured on the festival’s posters for the past 25 years. He has also completed numerous posters for the Hudepohl 14K Brewery Run.
Effler paints landscapes and portraits. His commissioned work has included a number of family and institutional portraits, including one of May Festival Chorus Director Robert Porco, which hangs in Cincinnati’s Music Hall.
He has created a number of public and private murals throughout Cincinnati. His “Beer Barons” mural is on display at the Moerlein Lager House at The Banks. Jim has worked with ArtWorks since 2015, when he designed and illustrated the Cincinnati Brewery District Mural, “Grain to Glass,” at the Moerlein Brewery in Over-the-Rhine. In 2016, he designed two additional ArtWorks murals, “Prost to Cincinnati” in Over-the-Rhine and a tribute to the Miami-Erie Canal, “Locks, Docks and Barrels” in the CUF district.
Effler is a member of the Cincinnati Art Club, serving on its board from 2006 to 2009 and chairing the club’s ViewPoint juried competition. He has taught at the College of Mount St. Joseph, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Miami University, and AIC College of Design.
Emily Momohara: Why the U.S. Census Counts
Associate Professor, Emily Hanako Momohara heads the photography department at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Her artistic practice engages issues of immigration, social justice, and communities of color.
Momohara is part of the Japanese American Citizens League and has been appointed to the Greater Cincinnati Counts Committee to help raise awareness about the U.S. Census. Currently, on sabbatical, working on her professional practice, she is also spearheading a census initiative at the Art Academy.
Why is the Census so important?
“Every ten years we need to get the lay of the land and see how many people live here,” explains Momohara. “It’s supposed to be a maintenance kind of thing.”
The Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, but it’s much more than just a government formality.
The data collected will be used—in both the public and private sector— to help figure out how to allocate funding and resources in our communities over the next ten years.
It effects our lives in practical, everyday ways. For example, public transportation.
“They actually use census data to figure out where to put bus stops in our city.”
The data is also used to make decisions related to schools, social services, and health care facilities.
“When organizations go to put in a new facility, they look at census data. They say ‘well, where is this needed?’”
“If people don’t do the census, they’re going to think that not that very many people live there… so we really need to make sure there is an accurate count of everyone that lives in whatever spot they live in.”
Why do a census initiative at the AAC?
“I wanted to get the Art Academy on board the effort once I started learning about some of the heard-to-reach groups.”
Typically hard-to-reach demographics include students, individuals ages 18-25, residents of dorms and apartments, as well as the neighborhood in which the school sits.
“Over-the-Rhine and downtown were some of the lowest recorded numbers of the last census.”
The initial plan was for the school to throw a party on April 1st, which is National Census Day. But given current public health measures, the initiative will be primarily online and through social media.
Who should fill out the census?
“Every single person. Unless you’re a tourist. [Tourists] are the only people in this country who should not fill out this census.”
Momohara adds that there is also zero risk in filling it out.
“There is no connection between these census numbers and any other government agency.”
Privacy is guaranteed, and the questions are kept very basic.
“Whether you’re documented or undocumented. Whether you have a visa, you’re a naturalized citizen, or you’re a born-here citizen— everyone should fill it out.”
How long does it take?
“The census used to be longer. There’s only nine questions this time. Because they really want people to do it… it literally takes 10 minutes.”
When can it be filled out?
“The census is actually open now. It opened March 12th.”
You can go online now, or you can wait to receive the postcard in the mail. It can be done via mail, phone, or online.
“Technically it goes until July, but if you don’t want people showing up and knocking on your door, do it before the end of April.”
So I can actually make a difference by filling out the census?
“It’s actually very beneficial to us. Especially people who have special needs or who are in communities that have different needs than mainstream culture.”
And it makes a difference in federal funding.
“The federal money that comes from census numbers is about $1,800 per year for each person that comes into the Greater Cincinnati area… that’s anywhere from social services to education dollars. So over ten years, that’s $18,000 for everyone who fill out the census.”
“So it’s really important that we do it!”
Dottie Stevens: 100 Years of Impressions
by Robin Stevens Payes
Women of Dottie Silverstein Stevens’ generation came of age in a time when most occupations were not open to them. And self-promotion frowned upon.
Their work was in the home: raise the family, keep a nice, clean and orderly household, serve as gracious hostesses or guests and be good helpmeets, volunteer in the community, and get together for bridge or mahjong with “the girls.”
They could have hobbies: cooking, painting, playing piano.
But to work outside the home, much less to promote one’s artistry in the marketplace, would be frowned upon.
“Father Knows Best” was not just a TV show, but a way of life.
Mom was typical of her era in that she did all of the above, and without reproach. But her passion was for her art.
She painted, sculpted, took classes, taught them…and never let go of the question that drove her all her life: “What is art?”
All the while, seeking to capture her own version of it.
Even though she thought “selling” herself and her work was unladylike, she found a way. Dottie entered juried art shows, and won. When her paintings sold, she kept detailed records about the purchaser, price, and date of sale, along with a Polaroid or Kodak picture.
She kept records of it all on file cards, painstakingly handwritten, with xerox copies in loose-leaf binders—this being the days before computers could spit out copies on demand.
But her journey started by accident, at the tender age of 6, in 1924.
A Teacher, a Poem and a Shadow as Gift for a Lifetime
In Dottie’s own words:
From the very beginning, it was all based on an innocent, naïve misconception.
In elementary school, we had a wonderful teacher who inspired all the children in a very clever way. She promised a special reward if we behaved and worked hard.
She would read a poem to us and then let us draw a picture about it. One day, our reward was a charming little poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, “My Shadow.”
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
After reading it aloud, we all took out our crayons to draw a picture about the poem. As Teacher walked around the class, I was surprised when she paused at my desk and asked me to come to the front of the room and hold up my picture.
Then, she proceeded to take me to all five other first-grade classes to display my “work of art,” to hold up my drawing in front of all the other children as an example.
Mom never thought to question why.
When little Dottie told her mother about this honor, my grandmother immediately proceeded to buy the six-year-old a beginner’s set of oil paints, a small palette, and a canvas board. She was signed up for art lessons after school and, in time, made her first oil painting—a copy of a beautiful lady by Thomas Gainsborough (note: this painting is in the retrospective).
From Hobby to Profession
Cincinnati was sponsoring a city-wide art competition downtown, called “Girls Hobby Fair.” After investing one dollar in a picture frame, my grandmother submitted my mom’s earliest still life: Two Books and Brass Candlestick. It won a first prize blue ribbon, and a $25 gift certificate to Wilde’s Art Supply Store. With that coveted certificate, Dottie bought her first wooden easel.
Art became a major part of her life. She pursued formal training in great art schools, beginning with the Cincinnati Art Academy in the 1930s, the Cincinnati Art Museum and later in universities and museums. During World War II, she studied at the Chicago Art Institute and did graphic art design working for the Manhattan Project in Chicago.
She was inspired by the Impressionists, and first copied, and later innovated on their style. She began experimenting with sculpture and printmaking, and ceramics.
Extensive travel with her husband, David Stevens, further enriched her experiences, and many of Dottie’s paintings took their inspiration from their travels around the world, making it altogether fitting that the proceeds of the art auction will go towards funding a scholarship for AAC students to study abroad.
In her 90s, when the physical processes of painting and sculpting became too demanding, Mom turned to writing. She wrote a play, “What is Art?” to explore this question using words as her medium.
And after she gave up painting and sculpting, she used to say she was always painting in her mind. For her, art became sustenance.
But she never got over thinking that the drawing that launched a career and a passion for art was really a happy mistake.
Again, Dottie’s words:
Thinking about that early inspiration, I can’t believe there was really anything aesthetically remarkable about my picture.
My guess is, that while other kids were naturally drawing a little child with its detached shadow somewhere nearby, perhaps my portrayal showed a little girl with her shadow attached to her feet, and with its shadow laying horizontally on the ground, as shadows do, according to the laws of physics and the direction from which the light was slanted.
In any case, because of my early misinterpretation of my first-grade teacher and her encouragement, a subsequent whole world of art opened up to me.
Fast Forward: Inspiration Comes Full Circle
It is fitting, then, and a great thrill for her family that, having started with the early inspiration of a teacher, Mom’s art, and the Wilder scholarship it endows will pay it forward: to support, to inspire, indeed, to fuel, an art-filled future for students at the Cincinnati Art Academy for generations yet to come.
Robin Stevens Payes, daughter of artist Dottie Stevens, is a Maryland-based author, science writer and storyteller who takes teen readers to the Edge of Yesterday through her time travel novels and “learning through story” interactive adventure portal.
October 24, 2019
Making Art, Advocating for Affordable Housing
Dionna Flowers first entered Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) in the 90’s, when the school was still up in Mount Adams.
A graduate of Forest Park High School, Flowers served abroad in the Navy during Desert Storm before getting discharged in ’92. Back in Cincinnati, she had no framework for understanding PTSD and the addiction that was running her life, so she threw herself into going back to school.
“I have been drawing since I was seven years old. It was my way of escaping,” Flowers recalls. “So I jumped up and decided to go to the Art Academy of Cincinnati to try to ease the pain of being discharged from the Navy.”
Flowers got into the AAC on a full scholarship but quickly discovered that overcoming financial barriers was only half the battle.
“[The scholarship] wasn’t enough to keep me in there because, as I said, I didn’t understand the dynamics of what I was dealing with internally—dealing with PTSD and military sexual trauma and a survivor of so many different things as a child. I didn’t understand. I thought, if I just do this, and if I just leave that alone but still drink this, then I’ll be okay. And it didn’t work.”
What followed was rock bottom—and a vicious cycle.
“[It was] a long, twenty-five year journey of homelessness, dereliction, in-and-out of jail, in-and-out of institutions, in-and-out of halfway houses […] Clean, dirty, clean, dirty.”
The road to recovery began with intensive therapy at the Fort Thomas VA, then was sustained through the gift of affordable housing—thanks to OTR Community Housing and other local advocates—which gave Flowers the stability and the dignity to begin to dream again, for herself and for her community.
“Once I got equitable and affordable housing, I vowed that I would always give back to the community that I took so much from […] to make good the part I played in the destruction of our neighborhood.”
Finishing What They Started
Flowers is now celebrating five years of being clean, with restored family relationships, a strong support network, and a chance to finish what she started decades ago at the AAC.
“This is like a dream that I lost and was given back.”
Flowers is finding ways to merge art and advocacy work. Outside of class, she is a circuit speaker for the Homeless Coalition. In addition to silent auctions, her work can be found at the YWCA, the OTR Senior Center, and Algin Retro Furniture (as part of Visionaries and Voices), and at an upcoming show at the VA themed around PTSD among female veterans.
This Final Friday, Flowers is hosting “Art Extravaganza,” an art show fundraiser at the OTR Senior Center, with proceeds to benefit local senior services and affordable housing. The show features prints of Flowers’ original paintings made on 4×4’s that were left behind at the end of the school year, which she reclaimed and upcycled.
Flowers is grateful that in spite of everything, including a criminal record, art remains an open door to her. And she is all in.
“I’m open, like a sponge, you know, soaking up everything that I learn here [at the AAC]. And I’m willing to learn more and more and more. I’m ready for class to start back up. I’m ready to come back to class.”
This article was written by Sarah Dupee.
Q&A with Art Academy’s New President
Meet Joseph Girandola, the Art Academy of Cincinnati’s (AAC) new president. During his seven-year tenure at the University of Cincinnati, Girandola oversaw all of UC’s graduate students in design, architecture, art, and planning (DAAP). He begins at the AAC in August.
Last week, we got to sit down and talk with him about his own artistic journey, and what he’s looking forward to as president of the AAC.
How did you get into art?
Girandola says he was doing creative work long before he realized it. As a kid growing up in Maryland, he was fascinated with cooking, and he helped his dad make meals for the family.
“And putting together ingredients, which I didn’t really know would become essential to how I made artwork… the idea that one simple ingredient could change the whole flavor of a meal.”
He was also determined to figure out how things work.
“I was taking apart everything from the washing machine to dishwashers to see how they worked. And I knew that I loved to work with my hands, but never knew what being an artist really meant.”
It wasn’t until Girandola was nineteen that he began to consider art as a trajectory in life.
“I was fortunate to become an apprentice stone carver, and that pretty much sealed my fate.”
His apprenticeship in Florence, Italy, ingrained in him the impact artists and designers can have on an urban environment. By simply walking through the streets, he was observing the work of expert practitioners—from cobblestones to doorknobs to artwork created for churches and cathedrals.
“And so for me, my life has been guided by that—noticing small little details in every urban environment to understand the necessity, now more than ever, of what artists can do, artists and designers, what they can do for society in making the world a better place.”
How did you get into the administration side of things?
“I’m the type of person that likes to say yes when people ask me “can you do this?”
After earning his MFA from the University of Georgia, Girandola went to Omaha, Nebraska, for an art residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The residency’s founder and director asked if he’d help her cook meals for the group, and he said yes. During that time, his eagerness to help other artists became more and more apparent.
“I would talk about my willingness to do anything for artists to make their lives easier, including assisting them with finding grants for their own practice.”
At the end of the residency, he was asked to stay and work there, eventually becoming the residency director. This meant writing grants for nonprofit arts organizations and learning as he went.
“I became a de facto artist and administrator at that point without really knowing it […] I think they’re the same basic ingredients to do both things. It includes passion, it includes skill, it includes knowing when to ask questions, and knowing to be fearless in asking those questions for assistance.”
And you’ve never stepped away from your own [artistic] practice?
“No, never. When my kids go to sleep, I go down and work in the studio. And whether that’s not making anything in the studio and just looking at what I’ve done the day before or the week before, I still consider that an idea-generation act of being in the studio. And for me, maintaining a studio practice I’ll never give up, it’s who I am as a person—it’s who I want to be as a mentor as well— is to let people know their practice is always alive.”
What’re the things you’re most excited to build on here at the AAC?
“I’m most excited about this downtown location for sure. To be in a truly urban environment. This is a place where artists and designers can solve many problems that exist with out-of-the-box thinking.”
While working with graduate students at DAAP, Girandola says he has been repeatedly impressed by the students coming from the AAC.
“I see in them a fearlessness to be bold to be empowered to express themselves. And that is a world I want to live in.”
What are things you’re curious about exploring more with the AAC?
“The more community engagement in social practice, the better. I want to completely look at programming for an educational degree to include that component in everything we do. What does empathy mean? What does truth mean? In every class, these need to be taught. What is our role as human beings in this society?
The Art Academy can take the lead in being a visionary program for creatives to understand how to make a better society through their practice. And being downtown in OTR and seeing the transformation of this part of the city and this part of the region, this is a place to make that happen.”
Girandola also wants to delve deeper into community partnerships and collaborations. He would love to see the AAC collaborate more fully with institutions such as the art museum, regional nonprofit arts organizations, and educational institutions such as UC, NKY, Miami, Mount St. Joe, and K-12 schools.
Can you speak briefly on duct tape?
“For sure. My passion for duct tape starts when I was a stone carver […] I wanted to have some kind of fingerless gloves that could protect my hands but also lock my wrists in place.
That created a practice of when I would cut off those duct tape gloves at the end of the day. I loved how they looked like these immaculate little sculptures caked in marble dust and the oil from the tools and from the grime and grit of a day’s work. And it reminded me of the fabric of the city of Florence.
And so since then, I’ve gone on to create duct tape classes with the support of this company Duct Brands duct tape. The founder of the company saw my work over 15 years ago, and we created a collaboration to fund students making giant works out of duct tape. Which has been amazing.
What I try to teach artists of this day and age, of any age, from kindergartners through masters and graduate-level students, is that the more they can collaborate with people outside that know more than them, the better they will produce their work.
Because for [an organization] it’s all about a story. And for artists, it’s all about a journey and a story. […] And the more we can connect with the stories we’re telling and the kind of journey we are on, the better we are able to connect, to get our practice out to the world.”
Anything else you would want students and faculty to know about you that they might not know?
Well, I have a passion for wood-fired pizza. I make wood-fired pizza ovens. I’ve created a mobile pizza oven, so we’ll have that hopefully at orientation here. And I like to teach people how to use the oven and make pizza so then they can operate it on their own.
And I also have an open-door policy to come and talk with me whenever students want, whenever faculty and staff want. […] I consider [my office] a welcome mat to the students, faculty, and staff. And to the community.
My goal is to have the art academy have an open door policy to everyone in the city. And that includes other academic institutions, other arts organizations, to the community, to the public.
We need to open the ground floor to the city, being a beacon of creativity, of arts and design in the city. We need to have an open access policy. And really look at the world in a way that builds upon the success of the faculty, staff, and students of the Art Academy of Cincinnati for 150 years. And really connect with our alums again to welcome them in a return of a resurgence of this excellence.
The article was written by Sarah Dupee.
Joseph Girandola Named Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Next President
The Art Academy of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees has named Joseph Girandola as the college’s next president. Girandola will assume office on August 1, 2019.
Girandola succeeds Mark Grote, who is retiring after one year as interim president and returning to serve on the college’s board.
No stranger to the arts, Girandola currently serves as the interim associate dean of graduate studies and research at the University of Cincinnati in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Prior, his roles included the Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Art at DAAP and director of the MFA program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
During his tenure at DAAP, he sought and secured new external funding opportunities for creative research and was part of the steering committee for the University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub.
“Girandola brings not only the empathetic position of being a practicing artist, but also the experience of being a seasoned higher education administrator,” said Tysonn Betts, chair of the Art Academy’s board of trustees.
Bringing a Vision
His expertise is timely as the Art Academy, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, recently launched major strategic initiatives to increase enrollment and transform its campus.
“My vision for the Art Academy’s next chapter is to become an open door for problem-solving in the city through the creative practice,” said Girandola. “Building upon its amazing history, the Art Academy will look to collaborate with all of the game-changing innovative entities in the region to provide its students with the best possible skills needed to survive in the global creative economy.”
When asked about his new role at the Art Academy, Girandola sees a team effort. “The tremendous students, alumni, Board of Trustees, faculty and staff will be partners in the journey to solidify the success of the Art Academy into the near and distant future.”
Read Girandola’s full Q&A here.
From Military Service to Art with a Purpose
Each year, the Yale Norfolk School of Art selects twenty-six undergraduate art students from across the globe to attend its six-week intensive summer residency. The students are chosen from a pool of five hundred rising seniors who have been nominated by their school.
In a nutshell—it is a highly competitive program.
Which is why Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) student Kimberly Walker was floored when she received her notice of acceptance for Yale Norfolk’s 2019 session. She will be the first AAC student in seventeen years to attend the residency.
Their Story is Unique
Walker’s story is unique in that she became an art student only after serving seventeen years of active duty in the U.S. Army. When a spinal chord injury forced her into medical retirement, she did an about-face toward art.
“I retired down to New Mexico to do some healing. And then I ended up in art school,” she says.
If it weren’t for her now-mentor Sarah Stoler—an ‘00 AAC graduate who chairs the art department at the University of New Mexico-Taos—Walker might still be in New Mexico doing still life paintings.
“She brought the subject of the military out of me. At first I was kind of avoiding it. I just wanted to paint mountains and adobe homes.”
Under Stoler’s guidance, Walker found her way to Cincinnati where she is now a rising senior at the AAC. Her work investigates the ongoing realities of sexual harassment, abuse, and violence against women in the military through the medium of sculpture and installation.
Having a Story to Tell
Though it’s emotionally draining work, Walker draws motivation and energy from having a story to tell.
According to her most recent artist statement: “One out of three women who enlist in the U.S. military will be sexually assaulted or raped. Some have even been murdered by a brother in arms. In this sociopolitical climate, now is the pivotal moment to create this type of art.”
In the process, she has found there is something very satisfying about the physical work of building installations.
“I love the hard work. It’s almost like being a construction worker and an artist at the same time. So there’s some power there where you’re working with power tools,” Walker says. “I have a chain saw which I love to use.”
Unfortunately, the Yale Norfolk School of Art has a strict “no power tools” policy, so Walker will have to leave the chainsaw at home. But she anticipates a valuable opportunity to build on her study of color symbolism.
“I usually do red, white, and blue pieces. Or camouflage green and hot pink. But right now I’m trying all black.”
Otherwise, she is gearing up for an intense, full-immersion experience—something akin to boot camp.
“[The residency] is seven days a week, you can’t leave the grounds, you’re housed in private residences, eating in a dining hall together—breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” she explains. “And I’m like, oh this is basic training—I can do this! And I imagine some special relationships are gonna be built.”
Tony Tasset & Charley Harper Named the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus
The Alumni Council of the Art Academy of Cincinnati is proud to confer upon Charley Harper and Tony Tasset the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Tasset will also join as the Academy’s Commencement speaker.
About Charley Harper
Charley Harper (August 4, 1922-June 10, 2007) was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations.
Born in Frenchtown, West Virginia in 1922, Harper’s upbringing on his family farm influenced his work to his last days. He left his farm home to study art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and won the Academy’s first Stephen H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship. While at the Academy, and supposedly on the first day, Charley met fellow artist and fellow Distinguished alumnus, Edie McKee, whom he would marry shortly after graduation in 1947.
About Tony Tasset
Tony Tasset fuses unstinting candor, dizzying scale shifts, and precise prismatic rendering of familiar objects and forms to create towering sculptures, paintings, and installations that transfix, startle, prickle, and captivate viewers around the globe. These massive spectacles provoke spontaneous dialogue among persons encountering each other as they come upon Tasset’s outdoor sculptures, characterized by luminous color and unimaginable depth, weight, height, width, and impact.
Tony Tasset’s works are anything but “tacit.” Rather, they are astounding, radical, commanding, and arresting. The artist’s own uncurbed, seemingly boundless, and momentous art has held innumerable people around the globe spellbound for 35 years.
The Four Year Tuition Promise
The Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) is in the process of rolling out a four-year tuition promise. This promise will effect this coming fall 2019. This new measure represents the school’s commitment to protecting its students from tuition increases over the course of their four-year undergraduate studies at AAC.
“The standard across higher education is that when you come in as a freshman, you can expect your tuition will increase every year,” explains interim president Mark Grote.
By billing students the same tuition each year, the AAC seeks to reduce financial stress by making education expenses more predictable, transparent, and affordable.
“We want our focus to be on our students, and we know the cost of education is one of—if not the most—critical factors for students today.”
The four-year tuition promise will also apply to the AAC’s returning students. For example, “if you’re a sophomore this year, your tuition will remain the same when you’re a junior and senior.”
This puts the Art Academy at the forefront of what is sure to be a growing trend.
As it stands, the AAC will be the only private art college in America to implement the four-year tuition promise. And one of just three colleges in Ohio.
“This is one of the reasons we like being small,” Grote says. “Because being small, we can make really fast changes.”
To learn more about the Tuition Promise, click here.