Olympia Animation Society Forges an Animation Community for the Next Generation

by Molly Walsh

Laika Taddei, Caira Olinger and “Nort” the club’s logo, drawn by Laika Taddei

As one of the newest clubs formed by students at The Evergreen State College, the Olympia Animation Society is looking to carve out a space for local animation enthusiasts to become immersed and hone their craft alongside fellow creators. The society will feature regular events, including opportunities to showcase, create and discuss animation-related projects, both on and off Evergreen’s campus.

The Olympia Animation Society was founded by Evergreen students Caira Olinger and Laika Taddei, who have both completed independent learning contracts related to animation. As Olinger and Taddei have continued in their studies, Olinger said there has been an increased enthusiasm amongst students to learn animation, although with few options to pursue formal courses on campus.

“There’s a lot of people looking into animation, in media arts,” said Olinger. “But there’s no faculty that are here consistently. So hence, why we’re all doing independent learning contracts and trying to figure out how to do that.”

On social media, Taddei also noticed what friends and colleges were doing in their own communities to promote animation, like hosting regional film festivals, and thought there was an opportunity to unite animation students and enthusiasts in Olympia, as well.

And one day when Olinger and Taddei were screening some of their school work, Olinger said an idea first sparked to develop a creative outlet outside of the classroom and as a sense of community for locals wanting to learn more about animation.

“We met up over coffee one weekend, and decided to make it a club that we were going to start off with the school,” said Olinger. “And then expand to the greater Olympia area once we had an idea if people were interested or not.”

Initial meetings for the Olympia Animation Society took place in small groups on campus, and over the past few months, the society has continued to grow and gain momentum. Recently, the duo has been hard at work finalizing gathering spaces and establishing a regular format for meetings, and a new priority for Olinger and Taddei has been to expand meetings and special events to include both students and the greater community.

Starting in May, the animation society aims to host multiple events each month on and off campus, including meetings, workshops and screenings of short films or student films, to serve as points of inspiration and discussion.

A doodle of the club’s logo, “Nort.” (“And Not Bart Comes from the heritage of animated art that comes out of Evergreen, but to clarify he is Not Bart (or Nort),” according to the club co-founders, Laika and Caira.)

Events in May will be open to the public, and future workshops will be geared toward animation students and enthusiasts across all skill levels. But Olinger said topics of these workshops may include more beginner or experimental styles of animation, like brickfilms, or zoetrope, and will use technology and resources that are more readily available. Workshops will focus on different topics or techniques from month to month.

On Saturday, May 11, the Animation Society will host a public gathering at Gabi’s Olympic Cards & Comics from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Taddei said this event will primarily serve as a “meet and greet” to Evergreen students, and members of the greater public who are interested in animation.A public screening will take place on Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Evergreen, and Taddei said the event will showcase a range of student work.

“I’m so excited to meet other animators and…sequential artists,” said Taddei. “Because I believe that there’s so much…overlap between all of the sequential arts. And I’m just so excited to meet people.”

The initial flyer for announcing the Animation Society

Devon Damonte, an adjunct faculty at Evergreen who teaches classes in experimental animation, helped Olinger and Taddei get the Olympia Animation Society off the ground and is excited to see a revitalization of animation at the college in the post-pandemic era. Especially as The Evergreen State College carries a long legacy of alumni who have made significant contributions to the animation industry over the decades, including Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, Craig Bartlett, creator of Hey Arnold! andMichael Swofford, who was an animator for classic Disney films, like Aladdin, according to Damonte, and Linda Barry, creator of Ernie Pook’s Comeek.

“I think this new Olympia Animation Society is one of the most exciting developments in Evergreen media studies in quite a while,” said Damonte. “The group is especially remarkable in that it is an entirely student-initiated group which has formed organically by students seeking to build community in their shared passion for animation.”

Olinger and Taddei have found that the current generation of Evergreen students want to make their own contributions to the animation field, including through television and video games. Taddei is excited for what the future may hold for the animation society, and in additional creative opportunities, like the possibility of joining as a contributor to the student publication, The Cooper Point Journal.

“It’s just kind of surreal, because it’s just like, walking in…the footsteps of giants, you know,” said Taddei. “And it’s just, it’s a surreal feeling. But…I feel very proud.”

Looking ahead, Olinger and Taddei hope the Olympia Animation Society can also collaborate on longer-term events and projects, including the possible production of a short animated film, utilizing the skillsets and interests of different group members, and allow for practice in animation techniques or styles that aren’t currently offered through Evergreen coursework.

“We’re looking to do a film festival in the fall, as well as over the summer, doing our…own short film with small teams,” said Olinger. “So, background animators, character animators, and because there are a lot of folks that are focused on commercial animation, and there’s some that are experimental, so we’re trying to let everybody find that space.”

Olympia Animation Society

“Meet and Greet” Saturday, May 11th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gabi’s Olympic Cards & Comics
Public Screening on Friday May 24th at 6 p.m. at The Evergreen State College Recital Hall

(Saturday, May 11th) Gabi’s Olympic Cards & Comics; 4230 Pacific Ave SE, Lacey, WA 98503
(Friday, May 24th) The Evergreen State College Recital Hall; 2700 Evergreen Pkwy NW, Olympia, WA 98505 (Com 107)

Learn More:
Instagram: @oly_animators
For more information, email olympiaanimators@gmail.com

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