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From sketch to screen: UCI’s Anteater Artists club

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The campus organization Anteater Artists has connected artists at UCI since its establishment in 2012, highlighting all forms of artistic expression through community and collaborative work.  

Previously named Animation Anteaters, the club changed its name at the end of 2023 to be more inclusive of different art forms. Now, the organization focuses on all types of art forms including animation, drawing and digital art, providing members opportunities to learn about storyboards and character design by completing art workshops and other activities during weekly Tuesday meetings. 

According to Anteater Artists President and game design major Bill Chen, the club has over 600 members, participating in person and on Discord. To provide a platform for members to practice and showcase their artistic abilities, Anteater Artists hosts year-round video projects, regularly posts members’ works on social media and organizes guest speakers and collaborative events.

During a general meeting on May 21, former Anteaters Artists president and UCI alumni Henry Nguyen was presented as a guest speaker to discuss his experiences in the art industry. Nguyen told the New U about the importance of giving back to the community and understanding one’s own priorities as a young artist. In an interview, Nguyen addressed how the club grew over time.

“I know the club can persist without my involvement, without my control,” Nguyen said. “That’s how you know the club is successful; that when your hands are off and you put people in the right places, they can manage themselves and better yet grow past what you did. That’s how you know a club is successful.” 

According to Chen, Anteater Artists was one of the few art clubs on campus that remained active during lockdown restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding frequent Zoom meetings and remote workshops and activities via Discord, Anteater Artists grew their community despite online instruction.

As a campus organization, Anteater Artists collaborates with fellow clubs to hold events such as the Ghibli Concert on Feb. 24. Held in partnership with the Euphonic Video Game Ensemble at UCI (EVGE at UCI), the concert attracted over 100 audience members as the ensemble performed songs from various Ghibli Studio films. Animated GIFs and illustrations of fan-favorite characters by Anteater Artists were also shown while accompanying the music.

Reflecting on the Ghibli Concert, Chen spoke to New University on the event’s significance for Anteater Artists members.  

“I think it was like a really cool experience,” Chen said. “From the animators I talked to who worked at it, they all thought it was a really great experience, just like being able to show your art in person, with so many people.”

In addition to large collaborative events, Anteater Artists hosts weekly meetings with art workshops and activities. One activity included a shrinky dink workshop where members drew on sheets of shrinkable paper, baked them and turned the pieces into keychains. 

Chen revealed that his interest in art and animation began from a young age as he enjoyed watching animated TV shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with his sisters. He was “super obsessed over them” and liked “looking at the cool fighting” scenes, work that he cites as inspiration for his current art. During the lockdown restrictions in 2020, Chen began learning animation and joined Anteater Artists to feed his growing passion. 

Michelle Ng, a first-year pharmaceutical science major and general member of Anteater Artists, was also initially drawn to the club for animation. She shared that one of her favorite aspects of the club are activities such as figure drawing and described her experience with art as a “very personal process.” Ng said that Anteater Artists provides a space where she can improve her art and express herself.    

“I get to share this personal part of me with everyone and seeing other people also share their art also motivates me to do better,” Ng said. 

Ace Gonzalez, a senior officer and fourth-year psychological science major, joined the organization in 2022. When asked about the growth of Anteater Artists over the years, he shared that the club previously had a “dwindling” sense of community. Now, recent leadership have successfully implemented various structural and management changes to increase engagement and strengthen the club community. 

“I feel like now, we have a stronger community than before,” Gonzalez said. “I have a lot of fun when I go to the club and I have a lot of people I like to see when I show up to the club and people are always having fun … I think it does build a high sense of community.” 

Chen expressed the importance of an inclusive community for artists of all backgrounds. 

“A lot of people have joined even with no art experience, but just being in the art community is something they enjoy,” Chen said. “So I think it really shows that anyone can join this.” 

Katherine Nava is a Campus News Staff Writer. She can be reached at navakl@uci.edu.

Edited by Beatrice Lee.