ABOUT THE CALIBRASKA ARTS INITIATIVE

The Calibraska Arts Initiative is an initiative of the Arts with Others. Arts with Others is the coalescence of the Calibraska Arts Initiative’s Nebraska summer residency program and a new expansion of robust online education, community and database of resources in the creative industries. We are focused on reaching rural and/or disadvantaged communities where access to technology, cultural institutions, professional mentorship and resources to the creative industries is limited.

MISSION OF ARTS WITH OTHERS

Arts with Others highlights our shared humanity by creating equitable access to the creative industries through inclusive education and community building.

 

MISSION OF THE CALIBRASKA ARTS INITIATIVE

Calibraska Arts Initiative uses the arts to build community, culture, and educational exchanges between Nebraskans and primarily California/Los Angeles-based professionals and students in the creative industries.

 

MAIN OBJECTIVES AND GOALS OF CALIBRASKA

Using creative connections, we are able to bring individuals together who may otherwise never interact.  

 

We are primarily focused on creating two major opportunities:

1) To allow Los Angeles-creative-industry-based artists and students exposure to small-town Nebraska culture and hospitality

2) To provide access to high-end educational opportunities, mentorship, training, and exposure from Los Angeles creative industries to Nebraskans of all ages.

 
 

OVERVIEW OF ARTS WITH OTHERS ~ CALIBRASKA

In their 2017 National Endowment for the Arts study, Lisa Donovan and Maren Brown described 5 major barriers for arts education access in rural America;
1. Poverty and lack of economic opportunity
2. Geographic distances
3. Recruiting and retaining administrators and teachers in rural areas
4. Lack of funding for arts education
5. Policies that do not support the arts

 

Arts with Others tackles these barriers in a variety of ways. Through fundraising we provide free, low-cost, or financial aid to access high quality education, online resources, technology, and software based on current industry practices (addressing barriers 1, 2 & 4 above). Our summer residency program brings teaching artists to the Midwest allowing for learning on the ground and synchronous online learning for students while at the same time giving significant exposure for the teaching artists to rural culture and hospitality (2, 3, 4). Our online offerings and internship program provide educational opportunities with professionals currently working in the industries which is incredibly valuable to learners of all ages who are often local educators (1, 3, 4, 5).


In addition to these barriers, one we feel is particularly significant for the creative industries is being disconnected to a network of people. “It’s all about who you know in the biz” is still a strong basis for upward mobility and access to opportunities in the creative industries. To solve this, we continuously build a supportive network of allies to help our students not just get a foot in the door but come in with the skills at the same or higher level as those in affluent metropolitan areas. Connections are made between the students and teaching artists, assistants and to other students.

 

Such a network validates individuals interested in seeking skills, higher education, or careers in the arts when it may be discouraged, too unfamiliar or too distant to pursue. This network also introduces “big city” creatives to cultures and populations of individuals they often do not work with which has a lasting impact on the industry and future opportunities.

HISTORY OF CALIBRASKA ARTS INITIATIVE

The Calibraska Arts Initiative is the brainchild of CalArts alumni and Nebraskan, Erica Larsen-Dockray and Vistabeam Wireless Chief Marketing Officer, Monique Larsen. In spring 2013, Monique asked Erica, who at the time was in her seventh year of teaching animation at Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles, if she would consider teaching an animation workshop during her summer visit with family back in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

 

A few weeks later, Calibraska was sparked as well as a fire in Erica. She saw herself in her students and knew how important providing these educational opportunities are in making lasting impacts on their future. The following 4 years added on local partners of the program including the West Nebraska Arts Center, Scottsbluff High School, and Vistabeam Internet. It was just the second year when Erica began bringing fellow LA teaching artists to her hometown to teach with her.


In 2017, through a fiscal sponsor, the program received a grant from the Johnny Carson Foundation to acquire and curate 5 animation/media arts backpacks with laptops, cameras, tripods, lights, hardware and software used in the creative and animation industries. These backpacks allowed the program to be entirely mobile and ready to host a class of 15 students around 5 animation downshooter stations complete with editing capabilities. The packs also made it possible for the program to easily offer classes in a variety of other media arts including photography, graphic design, image manipulation, filmmaking, and more.


In 2019 with the packs in tow, the program added offerings in Lincoln and North Platte making it now a statewide “tour”. This same year we offered camps in Filmmaking in addition to animation and visuals arts classes. It also added Nebraska 4-H, the Nebraska Department of Education, Mid-Plains Community College, and the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as major partners. It was this same year that Erica Larsen-Dockray devoted her time year round to direct the program.

 

Summer 2020 pushed the program entirely online due to COVID-19 and with it a substantial expansion to its student base to 14 states and Ontario, Canada. Over half of our students in 2020 came from 18 different cities in Nebraska. Out of those 18 cities, 14 have a population less than 15,000, 12 less than 10,000 and 7 less than 500. Being online more than tripled the usual amount of teaching artists we work with since they could participate from anywhere including alongside an industry job. Because of this, our offerings spread beyond animation and film and into written and performing arts. An internship program was born offering paid internships to two students from the University of Nebraska and two from Los Angeles through the support of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, Nebraska 4-H and Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles. An Administrative Assistant was also contracted to assist Ms. Larsen-Dockray with the significant shift to the program. It was the 2020 expansion which prompted Arts with Others as the entity name to better reflect the populations it serves beyond California and Nebraska.

 

To date, over three hundred students ranging from 5 to 70 years have participated in the program. Our students have won state and national awards for their work in our program, one student is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Art in Experimental Animation at CalArts, another is matriculating at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, and several of our highschool students are pursuing animation and arts for their higher education. Eleven students and teaching artists from Los Angeles have visited Nebraska for the first time to teach and/or assist the classes. 1 full time and 5 part-time summer jobs have been created and 28 teaching artists and assistants have received summer income from the program. Lastly, the original animation curriculum is now a 3 tier tract covering all techniques, methods, levels of experience and age-ranges.

 

Over the span of seven years, what started as a single class with webcams taped to milk crates on a family visit has now become Larsen-Dockray’s full time devotion as a genuine way to pay it forward to individuals who, like herself, were hungry to learn about the possibilities in the creative industries but lacked access to resources and guidance of how to do so.

 
 

ABOUT OUR FOUNDING DIRECTOR

Erica Larsen-Dockray was born and raised on a 50,000 head feedlot her father Dallas built from the ground up 15 miles north of Scottsbluff, NE. Erica always had an interest in the arts whether it be painting, drawing, dancing, music or singing. Her interest in animation and time based media started when she was in grade school and was largely due to the off-chance opportunity to see MTV music videos her oldest brother Matt recorded at a friend's house. Seeing the atypical animation and graphics in these videos inspired her deeply.

Erica attended school in Mitchell, NE and continued to pursue the arts in every way she could including video production, visual arts, marching, concert, and jazz band, theater, speech and one acts. Erica also worked for her brother Matt at his business, Inventive Media where she often would "bug" her various co-workers creating video, web, and graphic design about their work and education. When it came time to apply for college, Erica petitioned her parents to head to art school in California. However a deal was made to study graphic design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 2 years and at that point come back to discuss a transfer to an out-of-state art program.

In Lincoln, Erica studied graphic design under Ron Bartels ( an alumni of CalArts ) and was involved in her sorority, Delta Delta Delta. After two years in Lincoln she went back to her parents to talk about art school in California. As a compromise, Erica went to Phoenix, AZ to study animation and media arts where she received a BA with honors in the fall of 2003. Prior to graduating, Erica interned at Rainbow Studios, a CG animation studio and worked at Fuel Studios as a production assistant and motion graphics artist.

In late January 2004, Erica's father Dallas unexpectedly passed away and shortly after she moved back to Scottsbluff where she taught art at Haig school, one of the few remaining country schools in the area at the time.  In 2005 she founded her own freelance studio, eekart, under which she produced animation, video, graphic design, and visual arts for clients. It was her time in Scottsbluff where Erica re-connected with her love to teach and work with young people as well as her art practice.

 

In 2006 she decided to return to Lincoln to develop a body of work to apply for a Masters in Fine Art with the trajectory to become a college professor in media arts. In Lincoln, Erica worked as an Associate Interactive Media Developer for the University Communications Department. Through UNL Communications she received a research assistantship to pursue an MFA at Lincoln in Painting and Drawing and pursued the degree until 2008 when she made the hard decision to transfer to an animation and media arts specific program.

In 2008 Erica headed to Los Angeles to get her MFA in Experimental Animation and Integrated Media at the California Institutes of the Arts! She graduated in 2012 (after taking a year off to have her son Dallas) and during her tenure there began teaching animation at Inner-City Arts in Downtown Los Angeles. She also participated in an international arts festival in Jakarta, Indonesia where she worked with students at the Jakarta Art Institute to create an interactive animation performance for the National Art Festival.

Erica has been an occasional special faculty at CalArts where she has taught direct technique animation classes, a digital paths class focused on animation processes, as well as her proposed course "The Animated Woman" which focuses on the representation of women in animation both in front and behind the camera. Her course received international press recognition as well as a spin off workshop with animation students at the Royal College of Art in London.

Erica lives in Val Verde, CA with her husband Jeremiah and their two sons Dallas and Raven where she continues to teach, make art, direct the Calibraska Arts Initiative and actively serve on the board of SCV Adventure Play Foundation, a non-profit which she co-founded with her husband in 2014. Erica also is the president of the Val Verde Civic Association, and is on the advisory council for the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. and the Val Verde Historical Society.

 

She always looks forward to returning to Nebraska each summer and feels honored by how this once little summer passion project has developed into such a wonderful program supporting so many people.