By Emily Lang, The Art Academy of Cincinnati –
The Art Academy of Love…
There are many things students would expect to gain during their time at the Art Academy of Cincinnati: knowledge, perspective, inspiration, life-long friends, a degree. But a surprising number of alumni also leave with something else — the love of their lives.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that over the 147-year history of the AAC, hundreds of students have found their other half while attending the Art Academy. Even one of the AAC’s most distinguished alumni, Charley Harper, met his wife, Edie, at the Art Academy, “in the same class, in the same row.”
Charley Harper used his Wilder Traveling Scholarship to take his new bride on a cross-country road trip honeymoon. The trip, in which the pair did a lot of camping to stretch their funds, took the couple across the Rockies, down the coast to Los Angeles, to Florida, before returning to Cincinnati.
The honeymoon tour of unspoiled wildlife is largely credited with being the impetus behind shaping Charley Harper’s distinct minimal realist style of nature art that he’s celebrated for today.
Edie Harper was a noted artist herself. Once asked if the pair ever collaborated, Charley Harper said that everything they did was a collaboration and that Edie helped him – with encouragement, critical comments and her ability to look at things a different way.
Both Charley and Edie Harper are gone now. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, we reached out to a handful of AAC graduates to tell their own stories of finding love while attending the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
Meghan and Daniel Robson first laid eyes on each other in the halls of AAC but it wasn’t until they saw each other again at an apartment hang that the chemistry was apparent.
“I can honestly say it was a love at first sight kind of feeling, he had these crazy curls and a warm smile,” Meghan said. “That night we had crazy deep conversations about art and even all collaborated on a drawing.”
The two hit it off instantly.
“I fell in love with him for so many reasons. I loved his art, he was so intellectual, inspiring and spontaneous,” Meghan said. “He actually pushed me to be the artist I am now and the reason I worked so hard in school. We just connected on so many levels and we are still best friends.”
The pair’s collaboration didn’t end with school. Together they founded an art gallery, the Creative Gallery, in 2007, before eventually moving to New York City together to pursue art and design careers. Just last year Meghan and Daniel celebrated their five-year wedding anniversary by backpacking through Italy and this year they spent the summer traveling all over Asia.
“We like to keep things interesting and full of adventure,” said Meghan. “I can tell you we actually never fight and we grow more in love every day.”
Karla Batres and Brad Gilvin had classes together starting freshman year, but they didn’t really get to know each other until sophomore year when they sat next to each other in Sculpture 1.
Brad admits that Karla initially intimidated him. She was talented, smart and friends with a lot of students, including upperclassmen.
“The first time I really remember talking to Karla… I had to go pick something up from the main office at the Art Academy and while I was there Karla came out of one of the offices and I found the courage to congratulate her on receiving one of the freshman scholarships,” Brad said. “Karla smiled and said thank you and I remember in that moment making a conscious decision to become her friend the following school year.”
Sitting next to each other in Sculpture class gave Brad the opportunity he was looking for.
“We immediately became friends,” Karla said. “Brad and I eventually started hanging out after school and we grew really close. His friendliness definitely drew me in. I loved that he was always nice to me; I could tell he genuinely wanted to get to know me.”
The pair were friends for almost a year when Brad first asked Karla out, only to have her politely turn him down saying she wanted to remain friends. Brad was undeterred however, asking Karla out again and again every few months. His tenacity paid off and Karla finally let him take her out on a real date.
“I knew that it was the real deal, that I really loved Karla, when I was willing to wait a year for her to give me a chance,” Brad said.
When junior year came along, Karla began to think about life after college. She didn’t know where she’d end up, but she couldn’t picture her life without Brad in it.
“We graduated in May and that summer I took him to meet my family in Mexico,” Karla said. “The trip turned out to be truly memorable. He proposed and I said yes!”
The pair are planning a wedding for this coming September.
“I definitely found ‘the one’ at the Art Academy,” Karla said.
Matt Morris and Eric Ruschman first “met” on orientation day before their freshman year at AAC.
“I guess, technically, I did not meet him then; just admired from afar,” Eric said. “This tall boy with about 12 different colors of red dyed into his brown hair, thick black rim glasses and this tight t-shirt with a drawing of Snuffleupagus on it. In short, this boy quickly represented everything I hoped art school would be. Obviously, that boy is Matt.”
It wasn’t until the first day of their Core Foundations course that they really got to know each other.
“This boy sat down next to me and introduced himself and I, being the “cool” and “calm” person I’ve always tried so hard to be, didn’t let on anything about the previous day’s observations on my part,” Eric said. “We paired off into this ice-breaker project where we skated each other questions.”
There were all simple questions, but they became incredibly illuminating as Matt answered questions like, “Who is your favorite artist?” with names Eric had never heard of.
“He spoke proudly of his CD collection, and I talked about the artist Annette Messager,” Matt said.
Early on, before they knew much of anything about one another, Matt was already opening up the world to Eric.
“There was an immediate rapport between us,” Matt said. “And during our freshman year we grew close.”
Their relationship developed very gradually.
“Neither of us had yet admitted much to ourselves about our sexualities, and we eschewed labels for a long time,” Matt said. “I think we both consider our romantic relationship starting in our sophomore year, when we were (among other things) collaborating often on videos, animations, paintings, and installations.”
Eric began making appearances in Matt’s drawing and painting assignments with some frequency and in summer 2005, they had a two-person exhibition in Baton Rouge, Matt’s hometown, called Monsters in the Garden. There were drawings of one another in their underwear, abstract paintings exploding with erotic charge and little installations of domestic décor they’d collected from thrift stores together.
“We were already experimenting with how to construct a life and home together in this work,” Matt said.
The pair live in Chicago now and their studios are side-by-side. Matt and Eric believe that the key to their relationship lies in how well they support each other.
“We’re at a point where we have deep understandings of each other’s creative goals, motivations, and pleasures,” Matt said. “I try to make a world for Eric in which those aspects of himself are possible and he does that for me.”
Eric echoes that sentiment, “The result is that we are heard, we are cared for, we get to grow and we get to be there with one another while we do. It’s pretty great.” Amy Greene-Miyakawa and Dave Miyakawa met while in class together during their freshman year at AAC. On a class trip to Chicago, they got to know each other.
“Dave got up in front of everyone on the bus trip back, picked up the microphone and began doing his Christopher Walken impression, listing the 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream,” Amy said. “We were sitting a row apart on the bus, and Dave quietly sang “Little Bird” from the musical Man of La Mancha, effectively singing me to sleep.” In the spring of 2002, they were talking outside of one of their classrooms on the third floor of the old Mount Adams building and Dave asked Amy to rub a kink out of his back.
“When I had him against the wall, I asked him out,” Amy said. “I guess I was too nervous to ask him to his face.”
The pair were immediately drawn to each other’s personalities.
“She was a beautiful girl with a quirky personality that meshed well with mine, thought most of my stupid jokes were funny and was able to put up with the rest of them that were pretty bad,” Dave said. “She cares deeply for her friends and is passionate about her art. She also helps keep me in line.”
And it was Dave’s animated personality that Amy was drawn to.
“He was also a bit of a mad scientist, causing blue sparks to shoot off the table during a Core project,” Amy said. “I thought we was talented, goofy and a bit of a charmer.”
The pair dated for five years before marrying in June 2007. Today, they like working together in their basement studio, while old episodes of the Simpsons play in the background on their tiny TV.
Kerrie Houle and Sam Kisker first met at a barbecue in a back alley behind the dorms but it wasn’t until classes started that they really got to know each other and started building a friendship.
“I remember getting to know who Kerrie was in our Core class freshmen year,” Sam said. “My first impression of her was that she was a really talented artist – she was very driven and focused on her studies, which is something I admired – and she made really good hot chocolate.”
They both knew they had real feelings for each other when they spent the summer after freshman year apart. When classes resumed they started dating, promising no matter what happened, they’d always stay best friends.
“Although it might sound inconsequential, before we started dating, I knew our friendship was real when she brought me one of her favorite teas during a late drawing class, but I knew our relationship was something serious when she was away on a business trip,” Kerrie said. “Being without her passion for life and her unapologetic pursuit of her dreams was not something I wanted to get used to.”
Sam echoed that sentiment, “I realized it was the real deal because she was the person I wanted to come home to every night.”
Fast-forward five years and the pair revisited the back alley where they first met. This time in front of friends and family to get engaged. The answer was yes!
Lauren Goldenberg and Jake Constantine first met at freshman orientation in the old Eden Park building.
“I met Lauren at orientation and I remember sitting at a table with my family and one of my roommates’ families when she walked up to introduce herself,” Jake said. “I thought she was beautiful right away and she made me nervous so I didn’t say anything.”
He was afraid that she thought he was rude, so he followed after her to apologize and thought he’d blown his chance.
But Jake would get a second opportunity. The two were roommates. In a time before student housing, AAC placed students in an old house, guys on one floors, girls on another.
“I thought he was cute right off the bat,” Lauren said. “What really drew me in was how genuinely nice he was—he helped me move in and put all of my furniture together.”
The two knew almost instantly that they were meant to be together.
“Probably within the first month,” Lauren said. “I felt like we had known each other forever, same tastes in things, same sense of humor, we balance each other really well. Even more now because we essentially grew up together.”
Jake echoes that, saying he knew, “Right away. Lauren is the perfect mixture of everything I was looking for. She makes me laugh harder every day.”
The pair recently celebrated their first year of marriage and 11th year together. Jake and Lauren were married 10 years to the day after meeting for the first time, in a little ceremony at the San Francisco City Hall.
Since graduating they’ve lived in five states in five years.
“It’s been a really great adventure,” Lauren said. “Even though we are settling down in Seattle, we will always have a special place in our hearts for Cincinnati.”