A photograph of Christine Carli.

Meet Christine Carli, artist, designer, Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) Alum, and now AAC Board President! Carli currently works as an independent communications specialist, combining her design skills with her love of writing to create meaningful online content, speeches, and corporate communications. Formerly, she worked as the Director of Communications for ArtWorks. The Art Academy has played an integral role in her career path from the very beginning. 

She landed her first job in book marketing at F&W Publications based on the skills she learned from the Art Academy’s 
Community Education classes. She later enrolled full-time at the Art Academy to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Visual Communication Design (2008). She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Arts with a minor in Spanish Literature from the University of Arizona (1993).

Carli enjoys making ceramics, dabbling in printmaking, and has been a docent at Cincinnati Art Museum for 20 years in her free time.

Q & A with AAC Board President

Q: How did you first become aware of the Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC)?
I became aware of the Art Academy at a very young age. My grandfather had told me his parents met as students there while taking painting classes. They later went on to marry. My first direct experience with the Art Academy was in the early 1980s. I was in grade school, and I told my mother I wanted to become an artist. She enrolled me in Saturday morning drawing classes through the AAC’s Community Education program. I remember thinking I was making a huge sacrifice—missing cartoons so I could contour draw for three hours! Later, as an adult, I returned to Community Education to take painting and drawing classes after work.

Q: Describe your time as a student?
When I decided to enroll the Art Academy as a full-time student, I was in my early thirties with two small children. Without question, it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made for myself. I spent four years completely immersed in my classes, and I loved every second of it. I am so grateful to my peers and professors who took the time to get to know me as a “non-traditional” student and guide me to new ways seeing, experiencing, and thinking. I felt like I had at least one moment of epiphany every day I was there. I’ll admit at times I was completely exhausted, and I always caught a terrible cold right around finals, but I had such a strong, singular focus on what I was learning and making. To be in that zone of pure creative expression—that is a rare gift, and I continue to seek that place in my work today.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of the AAC?
I have so many wonderful memories! Some are really specific, like celebrating Absurdity Day with Gary Gaffney, or the first time I succeeded in building a large-scale sculpture using power tools. I always enjoyed the students who engaged in performance art in random places and times. Other fond memories have more to do with the overall atmosphere of the Art Academy. There is such good energy in the classrooms and the hallways. Even though I was an older student, I remember feeling completely at home there. It was and is a safe place to take yourself seriously and explore your deepest thoughts and creative impulses.

Q: How did your time at the AAC shape your life post-graduation?
I can honestly say my experience at the Art Academy informs my life and work every day. I know that if I hadn’t have put my whole heart into the experience, my life would not be as rich and fulfilling as it is. It opened my eyes to new ways of seeing, and it opened my mind to accept a fuller range of possibilities. It taught me that a strong creative process can be applied to solving problems of all kinds. Most importantly, it taught me how to silence the three biggest creativity killers: fear, perfectionism and self doubt, and just keep going.


On a purely artistic level, the Art Academy helped me to become a strong, all-around creative with the skills, experience, and confidence to take my creativity in a number of directions. We all graduate as full-fledged artists, but we also graduate knowing that we’re just getting started. I carry what I learned at the Art Academy with me always. I really cherish the whole experience.

Q: What has kept you so connected to AAC?
That’s a complex question. I have been an active docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum for more than 20 years. Touring the galleries, I have developed a kind of long-term relationship with the artists from the Art Academy who came way before me. I have learned their stories and seen the way they all took ownership of Art Academy throughout their careers—especially Frank Duveneck. I am in awe of his paintings and his dedication to his students. He never stopped teaching, and he never stopped working to elevate the Art Academy to the fine institution it is today. As a graduate, I feel I have inherited a duty to keep the Art Academy going strong, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

 

There’s also something really restorative about returning to the Academy after graduation. It instantly puts you back in touch with that creative energy that can be hard find when you’re working alone day after day. Reconnecting with the Art Academy is good medicine for all alums. I hope they all get the chance to come back soon!

Q: What excites you most about this new role?
It’s great to back at the Art Academy as a fully engaged supporter! The students are a constant source of inspiration for me, and I remain so inspired by the incredible faculty we have. There is amazing work being made all the time. Moreover, our Board support is strong, I am truly excited to see where the Art Academy goes from here. There is so much potential. We are all part of a great institution that’s getting even better. That’s an exciting place to be.

 

Q: You are also the President of the Alumni Council; how will you utilize your experiences with the different facets of the AAC as Board President?
I feel that being an alum gives me the unique experience of knowing our institution from in the inside out. As a former student I experienced firsthand all of the issues we routinely discuss as a board, from recruitment and curriculum to financial aid. I hope to use this knowledge to help our faculty and staff become even more proactive and inspired in their approach to serving our students.

 

Q: You are also the President of the Alumni Council; how will you utilize your experiences with the different facets of the AAC as Board President?
I feel that being an alum gives me the unique experience of knowing our institution from in the inside out. As a former student I experienced firsthand all of the issues we routinely discuss as a board, from recruitment and curriculum to financial aid. I hope to use this knowledge to help our faculty and staff become even more proactive and inspired in their approach to serving our students.

Additionally, our Alumni community has the potential to invigorate our efforts to put AAC students to work in the field as undergrads. In fact, our AAC staff have already made great strides to formalize this practice. I hope my role on the Alumni Council can yield even more connections for our undergrads seeking real-world work experiences. Most importantly, I hope the Alumni Council continues to restore ties with alums both near and far. A robust Alumni network has the power to keep the Art Academy going strong in so many important respects. I look forward seeing more Alums serve in leadership roles, support specific initiatives, or perhaps join the faculty. The more we can build this relationship with our Alumni, the stronger our institution will be.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give a new student at the AAC?
Just one piece of advice? As a mother, that’s hard for me to do. However, I would tell new students to trust themselves. Each one of our students takes a huge risk to come here—from taking out student loans to leaving home, to choosing art school over a conventional state school. The first semester is the hardest, but if you can learn to silence doubt and surrender to the process, you will feel your mind expand and your skills improve dramatically. 

It can be challenging—even painful at times—to open your work to so much examination, but it’s worth it! Your professors and your peers will make you stronger in the end. On good days, get the most out of every new thing you’re learning. On bad days, just keep going (and try get some sleep!) One day you will look back on your work and all you’ve accomplished during your time at the Art Academy, and you will be proud. And you will be ready for what comes next.