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    Celebrating the Crew

    Acknowledgement and recognition was given to students, instructors and department staff at the second annual NXT Up Fest

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    Photo by Bob Toy.

    For the second annual NXT Up Fest, the School of Motion Pictures & Television (MPT) at the Academy of Art University decided to do things a little different.

    Compared to last year’s event, which had students’ peers decide who takes home the prize, this year, it was up to a select group of industry professionals with hefty resumes: Chris Moore (Manchester by the Sea, Good Will Hunting); Howard Rosenman (Call Me By Your Name); Liz Glotzer (The Shawshank Redemption, The Good Fight); and Barbara Fisher (Hallmark Channel).

    “We wanted this work to be viewed by people in the industry,” said MPT Director Randy Levinson. “We wanted to get an assessment of what people were really thinking, the heads of each of their own particular crafts.”

    On paper, NXT Up Fest is all about acknowledging individual student excellence. But for the entire night, the department instructors and award winners were all about showing their crew some love.

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    Class of 2018 Valedictorian: Dante Finn

    Dante Finn, Academy of Art University valedictorian from the School of Game Development (GAM), always knew he wanted to be an artist – in fact, he preferred art to his own family.

    “When I was four years old, my mom, who is here today, told me that my sister was going to have a daughter and that I was going to be an uncle,” he told the audience during his speech at the May 9 afternoon commencement ceremony at Bill Graham Auditorium. “I replied, ‘I don’t want to be an uncle. I want to be an artist!’”

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    2018 Honorary Doctorate Recipient: Jan Yanehiro

    The graduating class of the School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) was just as excited to see Jan Yanehiro, COM director, receive her Academy of Art University Honorary Doctorate as much as they were to receive their diploma.

    When she walked the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium stage on May 10 to receive the certificate from Academy President Dr. Elisa Stephens, COM students stood as they whooped, hollered and clapped for the person they knew as not only a pioneer in the field, but as their instructor, mentor and friend.

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    2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Willie Real

    Willie Real was a student at the School of Visual Development at the Academy of Art University during a time when “everyone was saying 2-D animation was dying.”

    “Maya came in and 3-D animation was a big hit – Pixar had already created a few huge 3-D movies – I dipped into 3-D animation and illustration but the tools didn’t feel right,” he explained. “I like the feel of paper, it’s a little more tactile for me, so I decided to focus on visual development and put a portfolio together and it worked – the [Academy] was cool, because I was able to, in a way, create my own path.”

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    Class of 2018 Valedictorian: Ray Chang

    Academy of Art University selected Ray Chang of the School of Web Design & New Media (WNM) as one of this year's valedictorians. Chang came from Taiwan in 2013 to the Academy with no formal artistic training. Five years and many hours of work later, at the top of his class, he gave his valedictorian speech to hundreds of his instructors, classmates and their loved ones.

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    2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Braden Summers

    Like many artists, Braden Summers had a background in art through private art lessons, he did not begin pursuing photography till early in adulthood. The Connecticut native was attending Boston University when he first picked up a camera doing work for a startup magazine. He was hooked. In fall of 2004, he transferred to Academy of Art University and graduated with his B.F.A. in 2008.

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