Cape man will teach at animation workshop in Alaska

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

For as long as he can remember, Taylor Crowe's dream has been to make a career out of his love of public speaking and cartoon animation.

Crowe, who is now 21 years old, has autism.

He knew if he could make his dream of working for Walt Disney, the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon a reality, it would not only change his life, but give hope to thousands of families who have children with autism.

So far he's accomplished the first part of his dream by speaking about life with autism at various speech and language conferences throughout the United States.

His message tells people that even though a doctor once told Crowe's family he would never be able to have social relationships, live independently or attend a public school, his family believed he could and he proved them right.

The reality of the second half of his dream has been developing over the past three years since he met Gary Schwartz, an award-winning Hollywood animator, director, filmmaker and artist.

Later this summer, the two will teach an intensive 12-day animation workshop for about 12 art students in Alaska. It will be Crowe's first time as a teacher of animation rather than a student.

Schwartz, who is famous for creating such works as "Donald Duck's 50th Birthday" for Disney and music video "Alphabet Jungle" for Sesame Street, met Crowe in 1999 at a fine arts summer school program in California.

"Taylor was one of my students," Schwartz said. "When he came to the school he was kind of in a shell. He was very quiet, but something about animation exploded in him and he blossomed to what he is today -- an outgoing artist who is a regularly syndicated cartoonist for the Southeast Missourian."

Fast friends

Crowe and Schwartz immediately became friends at a monthlong summer school.

In 2000, Crowe was again a student at the California State Summer School for the Arts at Santa Clarita.

Schwartz said Crowe's acceptance into the program for a second consecutive year said a lot about Crowe's talent as an animator and artist.

"An average of about 65 students get accepted to the program each summer," Schwartz said. "Of those, probably only eight of the students live outside California."

Crowe says he was lucky to have been selected, but his mother and father, Melissa and David Crowe of Cape Girardeau, say it wasn't luck, it was talent.

Crowe graduated from Central High School in 1999, but the California summer school program was only a two-year program offered to high school students, so he could no longer take the summer class.

Because he wanted to continue working under Schwartz, last year Schwartz invited him to attend a summer workshop in Alaska.

Crowe happily accepted the offer and quickly became one of Schwartz's most dedicated students.

"He was always working away while the other students were talking," Schwartz said. "That's how he is. He gets an idea and he doesn't stop until he makes it happen. I'd have to pull him away to eat lunch every day!"

Schwartz began his career in animation in the early 1980s after receiving a bachelor's degree of fine arts in animation from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1979 and a master's degree in film graphics and animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 1982.

Throughout his 20 years in the profession, Schwartz has taught at the California Institute of the Arts, University of Southern California and the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design and has worked as a director for 10 years in Hollywood.

He has also given numerous presentations and workshops on animation at colleges and universities throughout the country. In 1982, Schwartz produced "Animus," a five-minute, 16 mm color film that won more than 30 prizes worldwide. It is now included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Student to teach

In 2000, Schwartz created the Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Alaska. In 2001, Crowe took part in the summer camp.

At the camp, students learn the history of animation along with the fundamentals of creating flip books and short films with sound.

"At the end of the workshop last year Taylor asked me what he was going to do this summer," Schwartz said. "I said, 'I guess you're gonna assist me.'"

Crowe will help Schwartz teach the workshop and give one-on-one help to students who are struggling.

When the workshop ends, Crowe will return home, and continue to work on animation and independent living.

He's been living apart from his family, in a house with a friend, since October.

He said he doesn't mind the cooking and cleaning he does between volunteering at the Cape Girardeau Public Library and working at the Cape West 14 Cine because it is preparation for living on his own in California.

He hopes to attend the California Institute of the Arts to pursue a degree in animation within the next couple of years.

335-6611, extension 128

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