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Bowie State's New Animation Studio Named in Honor of Ayoka Chenzira

January 2023

Ayoka Chenzira Spelman CollegeBowie State University recently named its new stop-motion animation space in honor of Ayoka Chenzira, Ph.D., division chair for the arts, chair of the Department of Art & Visual Culture and professor at Spelman. The honor was bestowed upon Dr. Chenzira in December 2022 for numerous reasons including the fact that she is a pioneer in the industry, the first African American female animator and one of a handful of Black experimental filmmakers.

BSU’s new studio will allow students to develop, animate and produce stop-motion and experimental animated productions, short films and unique digital storytelling experiences. The space is a green screen studio outfitted with digital, stop-motion animation equipment and cameras.  While working in the studio, created in partnership with LAIKA, students will also have the opportunity to combine stop-motion with other genres of animation and filmmaking including 2D, 3D, pixilation animation, motion graphics, sci-fi and virtual productions in the future.

“With an increased adoption of animation in the film and advertising industries, there will be a growing need for skilled professionals to work in the field,” said Professor Williams, chair of Bowie State's Department of Fine and Performing Arts and host of the all-day stop motion animation event where Dr. Chezira was honored.

To round out the celebration, there was a special evening screening of LAIKA Studio's Golden Globe-winning animated film, "Missing Link." Studio executives also participated in panel discussions, workshops, and other activities in conjunction with the launch of the first stop-motion animation studio at a college or university in Maryland. Bowie State is the only HBCU in the nation with a stop-motion animation studio which is now officially called "Studio Ayoka Chenizra."

An award-winning artist and recognized pioneer in Black independent cinema, Dr. Chezira is a graduate of New York University (B.F.A. Film), Columbia University/Teachers College (M.A. Education) and is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in digital media from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Her distinctive body of work spans fiction, documentary, animation, performance, experimental narratives, and interactive cinema. Her film work includes “Alma’s Rainbow,” one of the first 35mm independent films by an African-American woman, along with “Hair Piece: a film for nappyheaded people,” “Zajotaand the Boogie Spirit,” “My Own TV” and HERadventure.” “Queen Sugar” marks her directorial debut for television.

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