Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 by Jim Norrena
[photo: Jim Norrena]
MFA Program in Writing second-year student Alka Joshi is heading off to Florida in October for a three-week artists residency (Comic Book Workshop / Graphic Novels Residency) at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) with Russian master artist and seasoned graphic novelist Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon, 2007, and Nightschool, 2006), who also drew and wrote a monthly serialized manga strip (aka comic strip) for CosmoGirl and has recently finished art directing a 52-episode animated series for television, called Teletoon, set to air in Canada and France.
Founded in 1982, the ACA provides artists, musicians, writers, and choreographers three-week residencies to study with master artists in their discipline. Past master artists have included Robert Rauschenberg, Edward Albee, Nick Cave, Ishmael Reed, and Merce Cunningham.
Other master artists involved in the ACA artists residency—also graphic novelists—include Craig Matthew Thompson, best known for Blankets, which Time magazine heralded as its number-one graphic novel in 2003; and Paul Pope (Heavy Liquid, 2001, and Batman Year 100, 2006).
Joshi has a particular affinity for the graphic novel art form and she's thrilled to have the opportunity to study with master artist Svetlana Chmakova, who like Joshi, was born and raised outside the United States. Chmakova's residency statement, which focuses on the rich history of how people in different countries and cultures deal with the reluctant transformation of ideas into scripts and drawings, appealed to Joshi, who desires to create larger appeal for her graphic novel, The Monkeys of Shimla, which deals with her family's emigration from India to the United States in 1967. (She likens it to "Persepolis meets Iowa State Fair.")
Currently Joshi is a teaching assistant for adjunct professor Matt Silady, instructor for the Writing and Literature Program’s upper-division “Graphic Novel” course that focuses on the development of the modern comic book and how the graphic novel has emerged as an important voice within contemporary literature. Silady, himself a graphic novelist, is the author of the The Homeless Channel (2007).
According to the "Graphic Novel" course description: “While the general public has only recently accepted graphic literature as a mature artistic medium, the comic book has a long history of innovation and cultural significance.”
At the onset of working with Silady, Joshi 's The Monkeys of Shimla was being workshopped as part of the MFA Program in Writing's "Creative Nonfiction" course, taught by Carolyn Goodwin. It was during this course that she received "the excellent feedback [that] helped me strengthen the piece I submitted with my application." It also captured the attention of CCA faculty Zach Rogow, who saw the work in progress as part of an exhibition initiated by MFA Program in Writing student Samantha Budrot, called Writers Do Other Things Too. Rogow met with Joshi and expressed his enthusiasm for the work.
Aside from constructive workshop sessions and noteworthy praise from faculty, it was Silady who initially encouraged Joshi to apply for the ACA residency, after being tipped off about it by faculty member Gloria Frym. Each agreed she would be an ideal candidate.
Joshi couldn't be more thankful: “CCA instructors are extremely forthcoming with suggestions and ideas for improving our art. They sincerely relish the opportunity to stretch our minds and our abilities."
She went on to explain how CCA is truly supportive of students who are pushing boundaries and making art that matters: "This residency wouldn't have been possible without the constructive feedback and enthusiasm of CCA faculty and students who saw something in the work even I couldn't see. I never would have applied without their support, and I'm grateful for each person's contribution. Aside from learning about the craft of writing, receiving unwavering encouragement and finding out about opportunities like this one are also benefits of the CCA MFA Program in Writing."
It's evident from this tell-tale example in spiral marketing that not only do the writing programs at CCA support cutting-edge approaches to developing new art disciplines, as evidenced by the curricular support of the graphic novel, but also offer a faculty of stalwart professionals who literally practice what they teach.