How the School of Visual Arts Helps Students Extend Their Learning Outside the Classroom


Education doesn’t stop at the classroom door for students at the School of Visual Arts.

This fall semester at SVA, BFA Animation, BFA Computer Art, and MFA Computer Arts students have found opportunities outside of the classroom to foster creativity and community, and enrich their artistic journeys. More recently, SVA renewed its Women in Animation (WIA) student club and held Blender workshops. To learn more about these recent activities, read on.

SVA first established the official WIA SVA Student Club in 2017. Since then, the college has continued to sponsor student memberships to all registered students studying animation, both in-person and remotely. SVA aligns with the goal of the Women in Animation organization to provide support and resources to all underrepresented gender identities and their allies.

This student-run WIA club provides a platform for students to find support in each other, through the WIA network as well as all other student clubs from other schools. The club aims to inform and inspire students through guest lectures, portfolio reviews and workshops. We asked our student club leaders to reflect on some WIA SVA events they’ve helped organize over the past year that have helped their education outside of the classroom.

Industry Portfolio Review

Vianey Contreras (MFA Computer Arts, WIA SVA Student Club Equipment Manager/Student Leader):

After joining WIA SVA during the pandemic and attending a full year remotely at SVA, it has been amazing to see how much WIA SVA supports events for its members. One that stuck with me is our portfolio review. The club opened up submissions to students for the chance to see their work by industry professionals from Blizzard, Pixar, Nickelodeon and Titmouse. They have been matched with those that match their style.

These events aren’t just for networking or improving skills: they’re opportunities to practice showing off and find inspiration.

Jenni Lo Pan (Senior BFA Animation, WIA SVA Student Club President):

During the portfolio review organized by WIA SVA, I could see the drive and passion of the students, and how eager everyone was to show their work and learn from the artists in the industry. After this event, I was inspired to reflect on my own animation and career goals.

It’s rewarding to connect with other artists who want to help each other. Especially as students, we want to move towards the right career goals, and joining a club like WIA SVA can help. We really focus on building students’ artistic skills and growing alongside amazing friends and animating families. Ultimately, WIA SVA continues to provide a great sense of community and leadership.

internship committee

Min Lee (BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation & Visual Effects, WIA SVA Student Club Secretary):

I’ve always heard that the most important thing for an animator is to keep in touch with many other artists. Through many WIA SVA events, I met many people in animation to learn. The Internship Panel was one of the events organized by WIA SVA, where we heard what it’s like to be an intern at studios such as Pixar, Nickelodeon, Blue Sky Studios and 100 Chickens.

It was very informative and fun to communicate with our guests – Daniela Dwek (BFA Computer Art 2020), Annie Chen (MFA Computer Arts 2020), CK Lu (MFA Computer Arts 2020), Ziyi Wang (BFA Animation 2021) – and get to ask questions about our interests and concerns about the internship as students.

Ollie Yao (BFA Computer Art 2023, WIA SVA Marketing Manager) poses a question to the internship panelists during the Q&A portion of the event
VAS workshops
Image of “Long Gone Gulch”, alumni Tara Billinger (BFA Animation 2011) and Zach Bellissimo (BFA Animation 2011), and WIA SVA heads Jenni Lo Pan and Brooke Burnett

Brooke Burnett (BFA Animation, Vice President of WIA SVA Student Club):

Working in conjunction with other WIA SVA agents and educational advisors, WIA SVA has hosted a variety of events that provide engaging resources to learn more about the ins and outs of the animation industry.

Last May, we held a panel on the development and presentation of an original pilot with the creators of Abyss long gone, Tara Billinger and Zach Bellissimo. As co-host of the program, it was humbling to have the opportunity to speak with Zach and Tara, and to feel that all attendees were incredibly grateful for the insights and direct feedback they gained during the course. panel.

Blender Workshops

SVA Animation also organizes shared workshops to deepen the technical skills of students. The most recent, held during the Summer and Fall 2021 semesters, were held in collaboration with industry Blender artists.

The first workshop took place in August and was taught by Satish Goda, CTO currently at Netflix. In the first session, participants were able to familiarize themselves with the user interface, set up a scene, add physics to objects, and render the scene in two hours. Over four sessions, Goda led current students as well as recent graduates through a crash course in Blender, demystifying this very complicated program and allowing them to dive into it.

Physics exercise in Blender by Lance Haug (BFA Computer Art 2023)
Physics exercise in Blender by Lance Haug (BFA Computer Art 2023)

The second series of workshops, aptly titled “The Superpowers of Blending Pencil Drawings and CG in Blender”, took place in October. They were taught by Alexandre Heboyan, a renowned filmmaker based in Paris. Alex showed attendees how to integrate 2D drawings in Blender with 3D elements using the Grease Pencil toolset, allowing artists to block out cinematic shots in a relatively short time. Thanks to Alex demonstrating his revolutionary workflow, participants were able to script scenes and edit their videos directly in Blender during the workshop.

These are two examples of a few creative collaborations between the BFA Animation, BFA Computer Art, and MFA Computer Arts departments of the School of Visual Arts. Coming together to learn outside the classroom has fostered collaboration and new initiatives in education.

In the photo above: Alumni Daniela Dwek (BFA Computer Art 2020), Annie Chien (MFA Computer Arts 2020), CK Lu (MFA Computer Arts 2020), and Ziyi Wang (BFA Animation 2021) present at the WIA SVA Internship Panel.


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