Elizabeth Bayne: In ArtCenter’s 90-year history, there have only been 300 black alumni — what was your reaction when you heard that?
Fred Germany (BFA '12 Film): Honestly, I wasn't too surprised by that number, because when I came here, I saw the ratio of students.
EB: How did you find out about ArtCenter?
FG: I was in community college taking a graphic design class and asked the professor [Mitchell Syrop] what college he thought I should go to next. He looked at me and said, "I think you're an ArtCenter guy." I didn't know what that meant; so, I did my research, and found out that he was right.
EB: What was your first impression of campus?
FG: Amazement. I fell in love, and I just wanted to be a part of it.
EB: Were you the only Black person in your department?
FG: It was a summer term; and yeah, I was the only Black guy.
EB: Was that the first time that you'd been the only Black person or one of the few Black people in a space?
FG: Before I came here, I worked on set quite a bit, so I would quite often be the only Black person. Coming to college, I expected it to be a little bit more diverse, but it just wasn't.
EB: Did it affect your experience here?
FG: I wouldn't say it affected my experience here; I had a good experience here. I enjoyed learning from different cultures, different points of view and perspectives.
EB: Was that helpful for you to be exposed to different cultures?
FG: It was extremely helpful. I feel like it rounded me off a little bit more — to be in different environments and be able to thrive and be comfortable. That's big, I feel, for a young African American male coming up.
EB: When did you decide to pursue a creative field?
FG: It wasn't a difficult decision. I started doing music videos in high school, and I didn't know anything about film, the production process, or anything. When I found out you could make money doing videos, commercials, all of that stuff; I was like, "I want to do this forever if I can provide for myself and make a sustainable career out of it."
EB: What skills did you learn at ArtCenter?
FG: The biggest skill I learned was writing and improving my screenplays. Other than that, it was learning about different equipment, cameras... When I was coming up as a production assistant, it was mostly film: big cameras, film cameras. When I came here, there was a transition in the industry from film to digital video. Seeing the whole process change and learning how you can create similar-quality projects on smaller, more compact cameras ... I learned that it's more about imagination than the tools.
EB: Did ArtCenter help you find your identity as an artist?
FG: I feel like it’s an ongoing process, at least for me. I feel a sense of responsibility to find out about all the African American artists, filmmakers, photographers, graphic designers, designers who came before me... I want to uphold that, or take it further and run with it. Taking the cultural experiences and the technical, and combining it and improving it to make good art to put out there in the world and be responsible to expand the culture.
EB: Are you still inspired to do that?
FG: I started teaching recently, so I feel more energized seeing young kids who have similar artistic interests. I’m trying to show them that they can take it further; that the possibilities are endless.
EB: As a teacher, do you feel any responsibility to share what you've learned and encourage diversity?
FG: I feel like there's a responsibility to get the information out there because I wouldn't have even known about this school if I hadn't gone to a community college. Some kids might not even have access to a community college. So starting at the lowest grade — elementary, middle school, high school — to let students know this possibility is out there--that's important and a responsibility for all of us.
EB: Why is it important to give those kids that opportunity and knowledge?
FG: Because it's all about exposure. A lot of times, inner city kids might not be exposed to certain things or the bigger world outside of just their city, their town, their block, or their neighborhood. So just exposing them to as many different things as possible is key to growth.
*This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Photo credit: Everard Williams
Before I came here, I worked on set quite a bit, so I would quite often be the only Black person.Frederick Germany II (MA '12 Film)Founder & Filmmaker
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