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From here, earn your BFA at Old Dominion seamlessly

Tidewater Community College arts students can now benefit from a new transfer agreement with Old Dominion University.

TCC students who have completed an Associate of Applied Arts in Studio Arts will receive junior class standing at Old Dominion University, where all their credits will be accepted toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

TCC’s studio arts program offers students the ability to learn in a collaborative arts environment at its Visual Arts Center with specializations in pre-art therapy, glass and photography.

TCC’s studio arts associate degree is a 64-credit program. For questions about enrollment, call 757-822-1111.

Best in Show winner from Stockley Gardens graduating with two degrees from TCC

Brandon Umberger enrolled at Tidewater Community College to get a handful of basic college credits out of the way. 

Then his art teacher recommended he check out the Visual Arts Center

“Amazing,” is how Umberger describes the Olde Towne, Portsmouth space renowned for its faculty of working professionals and dynamic, innovative curriculum. 

“I liked it so much I stayed for four years,” said Umberger, who will graduate on Dec. 16 with associate degrees in studio arts and photography

Umberger’s award-winning art from the 2019 Stockley Gardens Fall Art Show.

He’s found early success with animals and landscapes, his two favorite subjects. Umberger won the Best in Show Futures Award at the Stockley Gardens Fall Art Show. His pieces include a watercolor of a distinguished rooster, a portrait of a lion done in vibrant infused watercolor and a third watercolor of Blue City Alley in Morocco. 

“This piece is special from it being my first watercolor and soft pastel painting and my first architectural piece,” Umberger said. The Visual Arts Center student awards recognized that painting earlier this year for its use of color. 

Umberger became serious about art at age 16 after realizing how well it calmed his mind. His initial work, a soft pastel master copy of Monet’s “Poppies,” caught the eye of his art teacher. When she let him work with her soft set of pastel colors – all 800 of them – his eyes grew big. 

“It took me 30 minutes just to pick colors,” he said. 

Umberger added to his skill set at the VAC, where he’s enjoyed all the classes, particularly Printmaking and Drawing IV. After wanting better references for his artwork, he decided to hone his photography skills and realized with just five more classes, he could earn a second associate degree. 

He learns from the critiques at the VAC and the collaboration that comes from engaging with the creative minds there whose specialties range from glassblowing to graphic design. 

A peer of his is adept at drawing zentangles, structured patterned designs that combine spots, lines and simple curves. Umberger enjoys layering and plans to experiment with a watercolor over her zentangle. 

“There’s all kinds of ways to get inspired here,” he said. 

Blue City Alley won the VAC student award for use of color.

After graduation, Umberger will study under local artist Tom Barnes. His plan is to be a studio artist who supplements his income with photography. One day, he’d like to teach. 

We’re picturing a brilliant future for this TCC artist

“Can I borrow your camera?” eighth-grader Aninah McKenzie asked her mother one day.

Who could have predicted where that would lead? @aminah_mck boasts more than 14,000 followers on Twitter. McKenzie, now 22, is an Instagram darling, too, who’s been featured in Buzzfeed. Once upon a time, she took photos; now she schedules photo shoots far beyond that first simple snapshot of a backyard flower.

The Western Branch High School graduate is in full bloom at Tidewater Community College, where she is pursuing a studio arts associate degree. With the foundation she’s earning at the Visual Arts Center, she plans to eventually transfer to either VCU or Norfolk State University.

“Basically, I want to take pictures of people for the rest of my life,” said McKenzie, who adores fashion photography and recently started her own business. “I want to work in magazines and campaigns for brands and even shoot behind-the-scenes photos for music and movie videos.”

“Girls,” a project McKenzie photographed inspired by the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Her grades in high school weren’t the best. That meant McKenzie’s college list was limited. TCC made sense given its proximity and her ability to use her father’s GI Bill benefits to pay the full cost of tuition. It turned out to be a better choice than she could have imagined.

“I knew the VAC was here, but when I found out more about it, I realized it was great,” she said.

McKenzie credits the faculty and peers at 340 High St., with fostering a unique learning environment.  “Everybody is here to create,” she said. “Everyone is super excited about their work. The professors really help.”

Ticking off examples, she notes instructor LaKaye Mbah, who urged her to expand her thinking beyond snapping pictures for fun.

“She wants her students to picture themselves beyond the classroom,” McKenzie said. “It’s not so much about taking photos. She wants you to think about what you’re going to do with them.”

A Fundamentals of Design class sharpened McKenzie’s attention to detail and fine-tuned her photo editing skills by teaching her about color. Professor Tom Siegmund isn’t shy in his critiques, a plus, she said, for a serious artist.

As a VAC student, McKenzie can bring models into the photography studio. They’re often stunned by the state-of-the-art space and ask, “What school is this again?”

“It’s TCC!” McKenzie responds.

Her portfolio continues to expand with projects that range from “Girls,” inspired by the use of color in the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” to “A Story About Love,” an offbeat engagement shoot for two clients.

Her business, Aminah McKenzie Photography, is growing. One of her social media shoots went viral, prompting Teen Vogue to invite her to New York to shoot its entire staff. She specializes in portraits and faces, though a photo she submitted of Western Branch Park will be one of 12 in the City of Chesapeake’s 2020 calendar.

McKenzie will graduate from TCC next summer.

“A Story about Love,” by McKenzie