Prizm News / October 2nd, 2018 / By Celina Nader
Professor Charlotte Belland leads her animation students with the belief that their stories are valid and important.
By Celina Nader
Charlotte Belland wears an animal-printed shirt, draws a daily ink drawing of animals (@bellandpixel), and describes her office as “a happy meal and a filing cabinet explosion.”
It makes sense that she runs the animation department at Columbus College of Art & Design. The animation department got its start in the 1980s, but animation didn’t graduate to official status until 2008, when 16 students received degrees as animation majors.
Today, CCAD has more than 250 students in the animation program and is in the process of adding a brand new, state-of-the-art animation facility. Belland credits the animation community as the catalyst for all of this growth.
“You don’t have to agree with everybody, but you do have to support everybody,” she says.
This is her definition of community, and she applies to her high standards for students. CCAD has a large population of LGBTQ students, especially in the animation department.
Belland touts animation (and other creative majors) as a way for students to tell their stories, to tell “stories that need to be told”. Animation students at CCAD are a part of the upheaval of an age-old white male-narrative, replacing these tired tropes with their own personal journeys and stories, all important and powerful.
“These majors are allowing those students full license to ring true to who they are,” Belland says.
She also plays a major role in this movement to equality as a lesbian professor and leader in the field. She represents queer women in a position of power. She is proof that every one of her students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, complexion, heritage, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender, is capable of achieving his, her or their loftiest goals.
The animation department is still working toward some big dreams. CCAD has developed an “Animator in Residence” program that allows seasoned animators to live on CCAD’s campus and use the school’s space and supplies in exchange for holding office hours to meet with aspiring animation students.
Belland is currently hosting Barbara Benas, an Emmy-winning animator. As far as her greatest dream, Belland wants to help make animation curriculum, and maybe all art curriculum, flex in a way that can connect students with educators and teachers from all over the world. She says it would help them collaborate to create something bigger with what they’ve learned.
“[My position here] validates that I can be a leader. It validated that I have a voice and that it’s worthy of leading a program,” Belland says. She works to instill this validity in every one of her students, along with the powerful belief that their stories are important.
Celina Nader is a Syrian-American writer, chef and blogger currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction stories about the Syrian people and their lives during war. You can read more of her writing at insatiableblog.com or follow her on Instagram at @Insatiableblog.