It was at this time last year (around March) that I took my first tour of the school. I had my mind set on going to Cincinnati State to be a firefighter, and nothing else was even an option. My mom and high school art teacher urged me to visit the school just to see if I’d interested. I came on a tour of the school and absolutely fell in love.

Seeing the departments split up into entire floors, seeing the student studios, and the amount of resources we’d be able to use and I got extremely excited. I got home and discussed with my mom what I was going to do about school and I decided I wanted to attend the Art Academy. I completely changed all my filled-out school paperwork and fully committed to the Art Academy and I can safely say it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. My first semester here was really amazing and I met a lot of wonderful people. I worked really hard to produce things I could be proud of, and even made the Dean’s list and sold pieces for the first time. I found out that someone I went to high school with, (at the time we weren’t friends) went to school here, and he became my best friend simply from going to this school and us bonding on so many levels in and out of art. The challenges I have been faced with in school have driven a change in not only my interests in art, but also the process and attitude with which I make my art. I learned how to express myself better than I used to, and have become a lot more articulate about my work. I learned a lot about myself and the way I live my life by going to this school and being around such great people. I gained a group of friends that I can call my family. Each one of them is so unique in the outlook they have on life, and it has been really inspiring to be surrounded by such a great group of people.

The environment at the Art Academy is the best part of it all, and I think that is what I love about it the most. Everyone truly just wants to see their teachers and class mates make great work, and it’s really encouraging and welcoming. Second semester has been even more of a growing experience than first semester. I’ve grown closer to the people I met last semester and created work that I can be proud of. Of all of the influential people I’ve met I want to personally thank Derrick Dankwa. He showed me that if you have passion in something you have to truly put your all into it and make it happen. Obviously you can’t major in rap at AAC, but he had something he loves and took it all the way to his Senior Thesis show. He has really inspired me, and I will definitely take the things I’ve learned to my own Senior Thesis Show. I want to thank everyone who is involved in this school. Everyone I’ve met has made my freshman year of college such a great learning experience, and one of the best eight months of my life.  As for the freshman class, we killed it this year and everyone should be on the look out for what we all do next. I can only imagine the amount of positive opportunities there are to come in the next four years and beyond. Thank you all. I love you guys.

D.J. Gathers (the illest freshman alive)

P.s.- shout out to SKWAD

Click here to read DJ’s story in Cincinnati Herald.