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Dec. 28th, 2005 @ 01:02 pm This one's for Penina.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an Open House at the Center For Cartoon Studies, "America's only two-year cartooning program". This is my story.



It was a gray, cold day in White River Junction, Vermont, USA. My car managed to make it somehow, and with the help of my able co-conspirator Stacey, CCS was found, nestled snug in the tiny heart of town.





White River Junction, I must admit, has an odd sort of feel. It's not a quaint little town like some and it isn't an ugly, industrialized slum either. My first impression was that it felt like a place you stop at on the way to someplace else, with barely four blocks of downtown to walk around. But I didn't have time to really explore the area, and based on my pleasant experiences there I'm sure it would win me over fairly quickly. After all, as the students told us later, the less stuff there is to do there, the more likely you are to focus on your comics. Also, there's plenty of local history to delve into if you make the time.



CCS is located in an old department store. You can see it on the awning in that shot and even more plainly in this next shot from inside the foyer:



When they moved in, CCS liked the look of that sign on the wall and left it. I think it adds a cool, retro feel. As you can see on the wall in that pic, there is an Ed Koren exhibit happening at the school right now. Ed's got a very recognizable style with lots of scratchy crosshatchery and life. He's done oodles of book illustrations and comics for the New Yorker magazine, among others. Here's a better look at the wall with his art:



CCS has a small class of students and the school's size reflects that fact. The first floor is just the foyer, the hallway with artwork, a bathroom, the main classroom, and two offices for school CO Michelle Ollie and director/professor James Sturm. I love these homemade name plates for their offices:




There were about 8 of us that arrived for the Open House. Michelle and James sat us down in the main classroom and proceeded to tell us all about the school, its aims, its faculty, and the curriculum. They told us about all of the talented comic artists who have or will drop by the school to talk to the students, including heavy hitters like Chris Ware, Rick Veitch, Seth, and more!



Here's another shot of the classroom looking towards the back:



That's Robyn Chapman in the stripes there, critiquing a prospective student's portfolio. Robyn's at the school as a sort of student / coordinator / teaching assistant. She's co-editor of the excellent comics anthology True Porn, and she likes nerdy, bespectacled lads, so we got along well from the start.



The real excitement happens in the basement of CCS. This is where students can hang out, have a snack, and make comics with access to the latest zillion-dollar scanners and some sweet computer setups.



There's all sorts of free wi-fi and laptop access, as well as a very nice setup for screenprinting:



Students have full access to it all for personal projects as well as schoolwork, and I saw some mighty impressive examples of the power of homemade screen-printed covers and pages. From there it was on to The Hotel Coolidge, downtown WRJ's lovely old hotel. The town of WRJ is very pleased to have CCS in its midst and the Coolidge has close ties with the school. On the right when you walk in the front door is Inky's Cafe, named after the fictitious founder of CCS, Inky Solomon.



The Coolidge offers very affordable housing on its third floor and many of the students live there. Heck, some even work the front desk to make some extra cash! With its sturdy wooden features and warm lighting, the Coolidge felt comfortable from the moment we stepped inside.



After that stop, our guides from the school took us down the street and under the railroad bridge to the Schulz Library, so named because Charles Schulz's widow Jean helped finance it. As she put it in a press release, "Sparky [Charles Schulz's nickname] said frequently that there were no child genius cartoonists. He pointed out that it required a certain age and maturity to be able to reflect on the humor in life. He also felt it was important to learn to draw things properly before one can cartoon them. I hope that The Schulz Library within The Center for Cartoon Studies will help to provide the commitment to the craft and the history which will inspire the next generation of cartoonists."



The library is only one room so far but it's growing by leaps and bounds. They already have a very impressive collection of new graphic novels, rare volumes of old newspaper strips, a nearly complete collection of the famed Comics Journal, and more! Check out this picture of their mini collection. Each drawer in this unit is filled with cool minicomics from artists around the globe:



The library is housed in an old firehouse just like the Ghostbusters' headquarters in the movie. Also housed there is the amazing Main Street Museum, a small-but-meaty cavalcade of preserved animals, medical and cultural oddities, pop culture artifacts and artwork.



The museum has a good-looking website with a Museumology Blog. As the enigmatic curator William Laurel Harris says, it's the only museum in the country with an actual blog where you can leave comments.




My favorite display was a glass case with two nearly identical bottles of blue liquid. One was automobile windshield wiper fluid. The other was a berry-flavored beverage from the supermarket. Next time you're in the area, make sure and stop by to check out Elvis Presley's toenail clippings. I kid you not! It's quite a place.



Our last stop on the tour of downtown WRJ was the Tip Top Building. This structure, located near downtown, is a large brick building filled with artists and some area businesses including yoga, massage, a restaurant, etc. The number of artists and the range of their interests is amazing. Everything from puppetry to painting to photography to ceramics is in there somewhere and you can visit with them to ask questions or attend their newest shows.



What trip would be complete without a snack? As a diehard fan of odd beverages and unusual candy, I was immediately pleased with White River Junction when I walked into a convenience store and found two things I hadn't tried yet: Green Mountain coffee soda (vanilla flavor) and the limited edition Passion Fruit flavored Almond Joy. My compliments to Vermont's savvy snack distributors!



I hope you've enjoyed this mini-tour of the Center For Cartoon Studies and White River Junction. There is much more to see and do there, but this should give you an idea of the place. Obviously, I would give an arm and a leg to go there but unfortunately they want something called "money" and I am unfamiliar with that concept. In fact, I still have a ton of student loans left over from college so I guess CCS is naught but a dream for me. So go in my stead, friend! Head off to that little hamlet in the north and publish something remarkable in my honor. Go baby go!



-Tim
About this Entry
hellacopters
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 28th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
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No! Is it downloadable??
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 28th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Ahh...perhaps this is a sign that I should finally gives James my money.
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 28th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
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The worst thing is, it's like 90 minutes away from me. So near and yet so far!
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From:baconistasty
Date: December 28th, 2005 07:21 pm (UTC)
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If I could just win the lottery...
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 28th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
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You and me both, brother...
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From:defenestrat0r
Date: December 28th, 2005 07:22 pm (UTC)
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*Swoon*
Thanks for posting! And check your email.
And you should so apply. What are a few more loans? Just imagine, coffee flavored soda all the time.
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 28th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
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RRgghhesnfn!! Must not be tempted...must be frugal...Arrghh!
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From:defenestrat0r
Date: December 29th, 2005 04:58 am (UTC)
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Beeee temmmmpted... temptation good! Frugal bad.

Did you get my email?
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From:uminthecoil
Date: December 28th, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)
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that's so awesome!
From:brforrbalsap
Date: March 12th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
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awesome list

lisa
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From:finkenstein
Date: December 29th, 2005 01:20 am (UTC)
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this is totally radical!!!! Thanks so much for giving us the tour!
I went to school for comics at SVA, it's one of the only schools in the world that has a comics major, and boy did it cost a lot of money. Why is it that things that aren't going to make you an awful lot of money cost an awful lot to learn about?
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 29th, 2005 04:39 am (UTC)
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It's crazy, right?? It's like the software that only 100 people in the world will use costs $600! Very strange.
From:uncle_white
Date: December 29th, 2005 03:14 am (UTC)
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How quickly can I get my act together so I can study here? Hopefuly the school is still running in 10 years or so.
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 29th, 2005 04:40 am (UTC)
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Heh heh!
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From:bougieman
Date: December 29th, 2005 05:22 am (UTC)
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wow, amazing. Nice investigative reporting, Tim.
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 29th, 2005 08:45 am (UTC)
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Thanks, Robin!
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From:yellowcardigan
Date: December 29th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC)
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What good is a trip report that doesn't feature at least one photograph of the author? I need at least one "Here's me standing with/near _______."

Besides that, pretty cool. I'm so curious what the classes are like and stuff.
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From:tundraboy
Date: December 29th, 2005 09:54 pm (UTC)
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I bet they are "awesome"!

I didn't think to take a photo of me. There were no mirrors around?
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 13th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
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Thanx for the tour. Heard about this place but thought it was a dream. Seein' is believin'!
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From:tundraboy
Date: January 13th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC)
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No prob, thanks for reading!
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 14th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)

Other programs?

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Great virtual tour! Ever since I heard of CCS I've wanted to know more and see what it looks like. Do you know of other schools that offer cartooning as a major, besides the School of Visual Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design, and of course CCS? Or art schools where you can actually focus on cartooning in the illustration program? Thanks in advance.
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From:tundraboy
Date: January 14th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Other programs?

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Hmm...sorry, I really don't know much about other schools. I suggest you come post at the message board where us "Daily Grind" people hang out:

http://crowncommission.com/phpbb2/index.php

There are lots of people there who went to art school or go there now. They can certainly help you out!
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 15th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Other programs?

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Thanks! And good luck to you--I hope you get to attend CCS one day.
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 16th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Other programs?

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Check out the list of links at the National Association of Comic Art Educators. A few more schools are listed there (but none have the star professors that CCS has!). Link: http://www.teachingcomics.org/links.php

C. Hill
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From:onegemini
Date: November 26th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)

Re: Other programs?

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Those are good schools, and of course, The Joe Kubert School of Art;

http://www.kubertsworld.com/kubertschool/KubertSchool.htm.

They have some heavy hitters in their faculty, but I'd make this statement; Kubert is a good school if you want to get into the mainstream books, CCS is a good school if you want to do your own thing and/or the indie publishers.

I'll also add, I went to Kubert, went into plain old graphic design (lead illustrator for a marketing firm) and now I'm in development on my own screenplays based on comic book characters I created in high school and Kubert. *shrug* What happens, happens.
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 17th, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)

going to CCS

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I've been accepted to CCS for the fall semester, and i was wondering if you had a chance to talk to other students about how they felt about the program. any insight would be helpful. thanks.
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From:tundraboy
Date: January 17th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC)

Re: going to CCS

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Well, I only got to meet two or three while I was there but they were all very positive about the environment, professors, and overall experience. Congrats on your acceptance at the school!
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From:lokionfire
Date: February 14th, 2006 12:50 am (UTC)

Re: going to CCS

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I, too, just got in for the Fall, and had the same quesstion. I've been reading poisonflowers journal (she's attending right now) to get some insight into what it's like. You'll have to talk to her to read her journal, it's mostly friends only, I believe.

Her artwork is making huge leaps, and it's really pretty fun to watch, so that's a good sign!
From:(Anonymous)
Date: January 18th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC)
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feel free to contact me, Josie (I'm the chick cartooning in the background of the robyn picture)with questions if you like...
piebirdjosie@bust.com
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From:tundraboy
Date: January 19th, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
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Awesome, thanks! I was wondering what you were drawing there. Got any viewable work on the net?
From:(Anonymous)
Date: February 13th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC)

Wow

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Very beautiful school!
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From:tundraboy
Date: February 13th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Wow

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It sure is!
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From:elio
Date: February 14th, 2006 12:09 am (UTC)
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cool photos!
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From:tundraboy
Date: February 14th, 2006 12:58 am (UTC)
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Thanks!
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From:tundraboy
Date: February 14th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC)
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love your art, btw.
From:(Anonymous)
Date: March 29th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)

CCS

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Hey dude,
I go to "the center". I'm from Vermont.
I just wanted to say if anyone wants to ask me anything about the school they can e-mail me at "theglud@yahoo.com"
It's pretty cool you put together this website.
bye.
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From:tundraboy
Date: March 29th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)

Re: CCS

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Cool, I'll send them your way!
From:ghost_starbie
Date: July 18th, 2006 04:21 am (UTC)
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thanks for the nice toured. it is a good explanation. am poem will love this school. do they have lots of critical theory and comics history?
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From:tundraboy
Date: July 18th, 2006 07:50 am (UTC)
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There are courses like:

Survey of the Drawn Story
From the tapestries of Medieval Europe to the woodcut novels of Frans Masereel, to MAUS and the modern graphic novel, this lecture gives an exhilarating overview of the drawn story.

and plenty of crit. theory as well. Thanks for reading my photo tour!
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From:natazilla
Date: November 21st, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
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i'm thinking about applying for the scholarship, thank you so much for posting this!!
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From:tundraboy
Date: November 21st, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Awesome, good luck!!
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From:onegemini
Date: November 26th, 2006 02:07 am (UTC)
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Thanks for posting this mini-tour. I'm thinking about going on an actual tour, just to see the place (I'm quite local). However, I'll probably never attend there, because I already graduated from the Kubert School seven years ago, and have already set myself on a career path.

But it looks like CCS does what it does well.
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From:tundraboy
Date: November 26th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I was really impressed with their program. I have a couple friends attending now, so I take every opportunity to go up there and sneak some free instruction / use of the facilities.
From:(Anonymous)
Date: August 16th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)

........

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Your blog is interesting!

Keep up the good work!