When Isaiah Kancler entered high school at SuccessTech Academy four years ago, he had minimal experience with any of the visual arts. However, after several years at NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology, Kancler was awarded a full scholarship to Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) for graphic design.
“Before NewBridge, all [the experience] I had basically was art in elementary school,” says Kancler. “At SuccessTech, we really didn’t have art classes; the only art we had was graphic design for 10th grade and up.”
Kancler's interest in design first sparked in middle school, when his family enrolled him at Ohio Model & Talent Agency (where his grandmother worked as a teacher and makeup/hair stylist). "My family decided I had poor posture, so they put me in modeling classes," he shares. "There I discovered a love for art from fashion because there are so many intricate designs. I would also go to some of [my grandma's] classes and photo shoots, and I would see the makeup and hair she would do.”
He was also inspired by spending time at PlayhouseSquare, where his mother works as an accountant. “Every time we would go, we would pay attention to the intricate designs of the theaters,” says Kancler. “We would pay attention to the way the stage was set up [and] what new designs they used to make the play flow in such a way to give you a mood or feeling.”
Creative Minds tech Isaiah Kancler received a scholarship to CIA
When Kancler's principal gave him a flyer for NewBridge halfway through his freshman year, Kancler decided to explore the opportunity as an after-school activity. He initially applied to NewBridge for photography, but all slots were full. Instead, Kancler was placed in the graphic design program, where he learned the fundamentals and tools of the art form in what he calls a "very free, artistic expression environment" at NewBridge. Shares Kancler, “[Graphic design] wasn’t my first choice, but I developed a love for it."
He transferred into Bard High School Early College for his junior and senior years while still attending NewBridge after school. Bard allows students to complete two years of college courses in their junior and senior years, graduating with a high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously; Kancler graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts in May. He'll be able to transfer some of those credits to CIA, depending on how those classes fit into his major.
To apply for the CIA scholarship, Kancler was required to submit four observational drawings and 16 other examples of his art. The effort paid off: Kancler was awarded the scholarship, which will provide full tuition and half of all room and board costs for four years (during which time he is required to live on campus). Kancler plans to major in graphic design and minor in expansive media so he can delve into other art forms as well. Ultimately, his goal is to "explore more of the world. I’ve lived in Cleveland my whole life—I want to live in New York City and work in an area [focused on] graphic design, expansive media and fashion.”
This summer, Kancler is working as a graphic design tech for Creative Minds, NewBridge’s new summer camp for middle school children (grades 6 through 8). He is one of 12 studio techs participating in a joint venture between Y.O.U. (Youth Opportunities Unlimited) and NewBridge, according to NewBridge Director of Academic Affairs Maya Lyles.
“They have gone through Y.O.U. for summer employment dollars, and we employ them here,” says Lyles. “It’s pretty much a job readiness program for them. For each studio, they have specific job expectations, and we evaluate them through Y.O.U. It’s a pre-assessment and a post-assessment of their work ethic.”
Via the job, Kancler has pinpointed another passion: working with youth. “I find it interesting that you can teach younger people things that you didn’t get to learn when you were in elementary school," he says. "You give them extra leverage, and you get to influence them in art."
Support for this story is provided by NewBridge Cleveland.