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Arts & Culture

Here are 5 Buckeye artists who love their work

A Grammy-winning opera singer, a web-platform designer, a filmmaker, a tap dancer and author R.L. Stine — they are passionate about what their work means.

A movie poster says “Linoleum” and shows a male actor and a woman behind him looking toward the sky. Coming out of the man’s head is a path to space, appearing as if the poster has been torn and it is underneath, and there is a little illustrated rocket flying up.

(Photo courtesy of Colin West)

Colin West ’09 

Award-winning filmmaker, writer and director; latest film: “Linoleum” 

Colin West, a bearded white man with long dark hair, looks contemplatively into the distance. He wears an ’80s-style puffer vest and sits with his hands comfortably crossed on his crossed legs.
(Photo by Temma Hankin)

“Simply put, I make movies because they are the medium I feel the most comfortable communicating through. I suppose you could call it ‘speaking with the language of cinema.’ It just comes naturally to me.  

“Movies are just another vessel for communication. They can be entertainment, information sharing, escapism, evidence, meditation — they can even be all these at once. In that way, movies have found their way into the canon of human expression, along with books, music and architecture, which is a big deal. That’s not something that happens very often in history.” 

A young black woman with long wavy hair sits in a chair backwards, leaning on its back. She has a close-lipped, confident smile.
(Photo by Marjorie Raggo)

Cierra Byrd ’15 

Grammy award-winning opera singer 

“I realized I liked opera when I was 10. Our performing arts middle school invited the Cleveland Opera to come and sing for us, and they did act one of “Madama Butterfly.” And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great.’ Because I loved reading and it felt like they were singing a book to me. When you’re a 10-year-old, you only get so many types of plots, you know? And this one was juicy. Like, this American is coming to Japan and there are two cultures and one’s predatory and one is sincere. It’s a story I still think about to this day.  

“And all of opera is like that, like I just live in operas. I find something new every single day with a character. I realize now, this is where I am meant to be, to just dive into the intellect of a character. It grows you as a person, too, because you think about loyalty, honesty of heart. You think about, what does love mean to you and what does it mean to other people?”

Jenai Cutcher, a white woman with chin-length hair, smiles as she dances in her tap shoes. Her hands are stretched wide apart and one leg is bent to the degree that that foot is off the ground.

(Photo by William Frederking)

Jenai Cutcher ’00, ’09 MFA 

Tap dancer, choreographer, writer, educator, documentarian, archivist; executive director, GroundWorks DanceTheater 

“Tap dancing allows me to embody democratic ideals. Sharing the floor with my peers, we all have a voice and the freedom to express it while simultaneously working as an ensemble of equals. We agree on common principles but exercise individual choice within that structure.  

“I dance to make sense of the world and to contribute to it. I dance for the simple yet exceedingly fleeting pursuit of sharing and spreading joy. I dance to honor the past, inhabit the present and imagine a future.” 

An old paperback book says: Tales to give you goosebumps, R.L. Stine, Special Edition number 1. It shows a ghostly spirit rising in front of a castle on a cliff and a full moon.

(Photo from Scholastic Books)

R.L. Stine ’65 

Best-selling author with more than 330 books, 400 million copies sold 

Author R.L. Stine, a white man with glasses, looks at the viewer as if he's contemplating writing a story that is scary, fun and thought-provoking.
(Photo courtesy of R.L. Stine)

“The thing I’m most proud of is the millions of kids who learned to read on my books and who learned to like books because of me. What a wonderful thing. I hear from parents: ‘My kid never liked to read. But I caught him/her at 2 a.m. under the covers with a flashlight reading one of your books.’  

“But when I’m sitting in my house writing these stories, I don’t think about that. I want to entertain kids. That’s it.  

“And why horror? Horror always makes me laugh — I never get scared by a movie or book. Laughing and being scared, I think it’s the same visceral reaction. In Goosebumps, I end every chapter with a punchline.” 

A Black man with shaved head and a neatly trimmed beard flashes a real smile — the skin around his eyes is crinkled — as he poses outside.

(Photo courtesy of Taurean Jones)

Taurean Jones ’11 MFA 

Designer, director of design at Intuit, which creates finance platforms like TurboTax 

“Since Ohio State, I’ve landed in very technical machine-learning, AI, developer experience organizations [Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Intuit]. And I found I thrived — even though it was hard as hell — because in the middle of all the functionality, I could still advocate for what humans need and resolve their pain points through human-centered design.  

“I will never forget how one of my colleagues said, ‘Art is selfish because you do it for yourself, but then design is selfless.’ It’s on behalf of another human. And I’m still intrigued by the idea of doing something on behalf of another human to better the experience or the life for someone else.”

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