Bowie State to be first HBCU to open animation studio

Stop-motion innovator Laika is funding BSU's animation studio so Black art students can further explore and learn digital animation.

Bowie State University will be the first historically Black college to open an animation studio for students to explore and learn the art of digital animation. 

The Maryland-located campus, one of the 10 oldest HBCUs in the nation, will launch a new stop-motion animation studio with the support of Laika, the award-winning innovators behind such hit films as 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman

Laika, the stop-motion animation studio responsible for such hit films as 2009’s “Coraline,” is funding a studio on Bowie State University’s campus.

The studio has also committed to enhancing the university’s digital art curriculum and creating a career and internship pipeline. 

“This is a great opportunity for students to learn valuable skills that will carry them into the professional world of animation,” said Tewodross Melchishua Williams, chair of BSU’s Department of Fine & Performing Arts. 

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“There are a lot of storytelling and narrative elements that have yet to be brought to life via stop-motion animation, especially in the arena of children’s programming,” Williams maintained. “We are looking at this partnership to be an internship and career pipeline that can help diversify the animation industry, which has been a traditionally underrepresented sector when it comes to the voices of people of color, women, LGBTQ and other communities.”

Laika’s head of production, Arianne Sutner, says the studio is “thrilled” to be partnering with the institution. 

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“At its heart, Laika is a community of artists, craftspeople and scientists committed to expanding the technological capabilities of our animation medium in order to tell everyone’s stories with boldness, compassion, and excellence,” Sutner said.  

The Academy Award-nominated animation hub and Bowie State had already paired up to create a students’ internship program, a union that will now result in Laika funding these major upgrades at BSU. Bowie State’s animation and motion graphics concentration is reportedly one of the university’s fastest-growing majors. 

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“There could not be a better time for new voices to be heard,” BSU senior Ronald Palmer told NBC4 in Washington, “because they’re in demand. Everyone wants to see a new story. Everyone wants to hear new voices.”

“Helping BSU students to express their experience, their artistry, and their potential through the stop-motion art form speaks to our creative and corporate mandate,” said Sutner. “We’re so excited to explore their talents and to provide mentorship and tools that will enlarge the scope of their filmmaking vision.”

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