(The Animated Encounter) is a collaboration between students and teachers from three countries: the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. The program came about because of our desire to give university students the opportunity to travel and challenge themselves by working with their international peers on a communal, animation project.
As a student myself, I had the good fortune to live in France for two years. I hoped later as a teacher to be able to offer my students an international experience that would broaden their worldview as it had my own. With this goal, I first brought a group of animation students from the University of the Arts (Philadelphia) to France, in 2005, to attend the Annecy International Animation Festival the world's oldest and most presitigious. We talked with local members of the Atelier de cinéma d'Animation d'Annecy et de Haute-Savoie to gather material for a short film that was to explore stereotypes and clichés in the hopes of scratching below the surface to gain unanticipated cultural insight.
The workshop really became viable the following year through the participation of animation professor Claire Fouquet of l'Ecole Européene Supérieure de l'Image, located in Poitiers and Angoulême, France. In subsequent years, students from both schools joined energies for a week-long workshop with the aim of exploring themes of cultural difference and miscommunication. In 2008, we added the participation of Wrexham University of Wales, England (now Glyndwr University) via the efforts of instructors David Jones and Matthew Dewdney. This tie was strengthened when, during my sabbatical in 2009, Professor Fouquet and I traded teaching positions at our respective schools for a semester. This initiative precipitated a formal exchange agreement for both faculty and students. In 2010, Illustration instructor Dan Berry of Glyndwr University continued our association with the United Kingdom. The 2012 workshop was held in Wales.
The result has been, over the past several years, an engaging creative experience for both students and faculty members. Under the pressure of a project deadline, we spend two intensive weeks confronting language barriers, overseas coordination challenges, thematic discussions, onsite work interactions, and a host of other exciting, frustrating, and exhilarating aspects intrinsic to this shared experience.
In addition to the work involved in the atelier, University of the Arts students spend three nights in Paris and a week at the Annecy festival. While the majority of workshops have taken place in France, UArts also hosted the French team in 2011, and was in turn hosted by Glyndwr in 2012, as mentioned above.
This is a unique workshop in animation and we believe the benefits to our students are significant and worthy of support. Our goal is to use art, specifically animation and related disciplines, as the vehicle to explore cultural difference, with the aim of encouraging nuanced understanding, tolerance, and enthusiasm between young people, so that they may better prepare themselves for a future where intercultural knowledge is increasingly important.
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