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Animator draws classmates together during remote learning

Digital Demons: Rising Up Remotely


For animation student Tikal Rivera, staying busy and positive has been a key to success during the pandemic.

“The world is a very scary place right now, but being able to continue to have hope and happiness inside of you is important," Rivera says. A senior in the College of Computing and Digital Media, this spring Rivera led the student group Animation Lodge, held an internship and a job, and took classes online.

All of this work has served as the glue holding together both Rivera's academic and extra-curricular life.

“Tikal has been instrumental in helping build and maintain the DePaul animation community during these stressful times," says professor Meghann Artes, who advises the Animation Lodge.

Finding creativity and kindness

To ease the transition to online, the College of Computing and Digital Media helped students access software to get homework done.

“I had a lot of good experiences with online learning, and it's not something that I would have expected," Rivera says. “Animation is very hands-on, very physical."

Most importantly, Rivera says faculty adapted,  offering constant empathy and support.

“Their guidance to make the most out of the situation made a lot of people motivated to get things done. People made fantastic projects," Rivera says. “In all my classes people still had the enthusiasm from their professors to work as hard as they could."

Minoring in industrial design, Rivera had worked as a moderator in the Idea Realization Lab makerspace on the Loop Campus, and was able to continue their job remotely, creating online workshops and social media marketing campaigns.

“A lot of what I learned in that job solidified my identity as a creative," Rivera says. “Even though I do like drawing and I do love animating, I also really like the physical design aspect of the creative world."

Reimagining Mayday, building community

Each year, the student group Animation Lodge holds a three-day animation event called Mayday. Typically, students spend the weekend in the CDM building, working with teams overnight and sleeping on couches and the floor. All animators vote on a theme for the weekend and create around it.

At first, Rivera thought those events would need to be canceled, but Artes, who serves as the group's advisor, encouraged them to move the events online. 

“This was our first entirely virtual event, and Tikal helped me plan a number of the fun activities that kept our participants engaged and interacting during Mayday," Artes says. “Tikal took over hosting duties of the trivia night and also came up with the awesome idea to hold Netflix watch parties through the weekend."

Students held talks with alumni working in the industry, a Zoom figure-drawing party and the trivia night helped boost participation. 

“We had a lot of finished films at the end of the weekend," Rivera says.

Keeping busy, moving forward

In addition to their job and studies, Rivera also continued their internship with Marwen, a youth art center in Chicago. Looking ahead to 2021, Rivera is set to graduate and hopes to land a job in animation or design. Working in a makerspace or doing graphic design are on the top of their list.

As Rivera is set to wrap up their undergraduate experience, they offer advice to DePaul students continuing their education during remote learning. 

“Take your experience into your own hands. This is something that nobody expected.," Rivera says. “It's still possible to succeed and do very well and make long-lasting connections through online learning."

Watch more videos from the CDM Goes Remote series on Vimeo