Peace and welcome. You have arrived, I want to sell you our ideas and get you to support our cause. UA Academy, video games & graphics resources for urban communities. Let me give you some context of where I am coming from. I think after you hear some of my background you may be able to see clearly where I want to take you. I will make it as dramatic as possible to keep you entertained, lol. The picture above depicts UA Academy's mascot "Cuzzo" being handed our first third-party funding for volunteer services, we should always remember this.
Around 2006 I was taught that ‘business is trust’ by Steve Garston who I have eternal respect for initially believing and investing in me. Thank YOU again Steve when you ask me to take charge of your website development in the mid-2000’s it was the start of my professional career as a designer. So with the principle in mind that “business is trust” after reading this blog hopefully you all should know enough about me to gain your trust. Thanks for listening.
Come with me, but let’s start at the end. I quit too! I recently left the mega-giant network ESPN as a designer. In my job, I designed graphics for TV Shows. Yo! Can you imagine having your work seen by millions of people on a daily basis!?
Knowing that I was a major contributor in producing shows for the largest sporting events in the world gave me “maaaaad confidence” as we say in New England. Being a professional artist working for Disney was ideal until I experienced so much discrimination and unprofessionalism in the corporate setting that I had to haul ass out of there. The details are shameful, let's just say working as an artist for a giant corporation was all the horror for me that you probably already read or heard about.
This is of course why I founded UA ACADEMY, a revenge plot! Yep, It’s all one elaborate vendetta mission to topple the system, lol. Well, kinda sorta, I created an alternate space for gamers and artists to create, produce and earn from their own content, this seems to be the trend in tech and it makes a lot of sense for artists to use the internet directly to reach their supporters. The pandemic also helps me see more clearly I can effectively produce enough to earn a salary from home. All the other non-design obligations the corporation put on me, were too much. Overwhelmed by production work and way too much bullshit work.
Salty! No joke, In 2021 I experienced a “Major depressive episode” and needed to be hospitalized from working like a dog, putting up with people’s petty shenanigans all to fall further and further in debt because the ends just don't meet. Also while working for Disney I got to know a now-former employee who turned content creator (twtich.tv/MsGryphi), her success taught and inspired me that this mission was possible and the journey is worth it.
After I got an EMMY AWARD in 2021, it hit me that I was ready. In our industry the EMMY is something like a “Super Bowl”, a rare achievement, looking back I achieved a B.A. In computer animation in 2016 followed up by an EMMY in 2021.
But before I started my corporate career, I freelanced on the side, while working full time around 2010 to about 2016 at a social service agency. Being from an impoverished community ‘doing social work in the community as a job has a special feeling right?’, like you're making money and helping in your community directly, a win-win.
Except I was traumatized for the first time; by the amount of rebuilding these people needed! The client-based I was exposed to were those who lack basic social development. Most of them were abused as a child in some way. They say living and growing impoverished can be just as traumatizing as soldiers going to war in a foreign land. I am from the same streets so I can relate. But from my studies, I learned that being abused or growing poor still did not explain why their behavior was so self-destructive and or manipulative.
I read a lot, specifically “deep” shit, mentally heavy content. In the early 2000’s I was heavy into psychology, reading Maslow, Freud, Robert Greene, and many other industry names, coupled with a love for words I studied etymology which led to anthropology knowledge, and I read and studied “deep” topics for a hobby since my teens, so having a job at a social service agency was intriguing for me.
Working for My People tested my knowledge of the mind. I did well at My People Clinical Service. I also realized that If I was going to become the person/artist I wanted to be and actualize myself as it were, I should be working in the graphics industry full time for some major corporation to get the experience I would need to produce a masterpiece. My freelancing fell by the wayside as the client's demands became unmanageable and not worth the time. My full-time job at My People provided just enough to maintain bills and get into more debt while I enrolled in FullSail University to learn and become a more skilled artist. Around this time in my journey, I was also inspired to introduce art and graphics science to the urban community.
Let's recap because the path I chose is long, narrow, and has zigzags, so it can be very hard to follow. As a teen, I was a nerd in the hood, I loved art, video games, and “deep” knowledge. I am proud that I would read the dictionary for fun when I was in high school. If I wasn't playing Video Games or creating Art, I would turn to read books when I was bored.
Did you know that I got accepted and attended the “Hartford Art School” when I was 17 years old? Yep, my illustrations stood out and got me selected to attend the University of Hartford, but I wasn't ready for that, I was too stupid and too broke bluntly speaking.
After dropping out of the Hartford Art School in 1996, I began working full-time at a hardware store for like a year before I went to a trade school and became a certified electrical apprentice. I told you it's zigzags, I have a lot of ‘practical’, “real world” experience. I have been around “the block” a few times. In retrospect, this move to get a “trade” may have delayed me as an artisan and sent me astray for 20 years before I would return to my dream work.(Hmmm interesting, I'm learning as I'm writing this.)
Lets hover around 1998-2003 I was a proud nerd at “fighting age” in the hood. Bruh, it's true, even though I wasn't with the bullshit, in that environment you're in the bullshit. The album by Kendrick Lamar Good KIDD MADD City is a good interpretation of my life and many others from that community too. Rest in peace to all the victims of the struggle I grew up with but are no longer here. My way of chasing money to survive was getting trade skills and getting a good job. That's what I heard from my elders growing up, “go to college, get a trade so you can always have a good job”. That was my community's theme, your youth should be thinking about getting a good job” as an adult. Think about a talented kid being told by every adult to not pursue art, instead learn something to get a ‘good job’. It’s a safer, more secure strategy to get a “trade“. “You're smart, you like to use your hands, you should get a trade '' is what I would hear very often.
So I did, In 1999 I actually completed trade school and got certified by the state of CT as an Electrical Apprentice. I did well as an electrician. I actually found the work fun. I learned a ton about building structures and keeping myself in shape physically. I loved working in the ‘trade’. It made me feel very capable because I knew it was a very physically and mentally demanding career that was not easy. Working outside in bad weather, using the hardware, and doing construction work I literally worked in physical real-life trenches! How many artists can say that? However, once I completed trade school and started working on construction I got disconnected from art and lost interest in illustration.
To make up for my creative fire I would take interest in digital hip hop music production, around the mid-2000’s it was a growing trend as recording and production technology became more accessible. Making songs was a great creative outlet to balance out my construction worker life. My love for words made writing second nature, and I came to find out I was computer savvy and was able to produce on a professional level in a few years.
Can you believe this? I got really good at producing music. In 2004 I left my career as an electrician to open a multimedia production studio in East Hartford, CT. I would record and produce musicians and design their promos. Computer technology made it so I could do both graphics and music. I was taking music more so seriously at the time. I would often travel to NY to participate in contests and networking events.
Did you know that I got recruited by MTV to lease my beats for their TV shows? Yes, how did we get here? Around 2005 I signed a beat production licensing contract with MTV to use my beats for their shows. This was a big deal… but I was not ready, I was too stupid and too broke to put it plainly.
Zigzagzig, no worries, here is a summation.
1996 - Graduate High School
1997 - Acceptance/Dropout University of Hartford
1999 - Enrolled in Lincoln Tech Electrician Program
2000 - Certified Electrical Apprenticeship
2004 - Multimedia production start-up (AudiOptic Studios LLC)
2005 - MTV beat production licensing deal (later inDigi Music Group)
2006 - Gartson Sign Supplies Inc designer/webmaster
2007 - Crunchtime Youth LLC (another attempt and indie community program)
2010- My People Clinical Services LLC (Social work exposure)
2013- Enrolled in Full Sail University Bachelors Computer animation
2016 - Graduated from Full Sail University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Animation
2017 - ESPN associate designer
2021 - EMMY Award winner for Daily Show production design
2022- Founded UA Academy.
That's some highlights from all my professional experience, in between are study, travel, and rearing children.
How do you feel now? I’m happy we made it this far and I made the decision to start a business again, the difference this time is my skills and experience. Now is the best time. As you just read I put the time in over the years. I have worked as a professional, rising to exceptional performance in every environment I worked in, and have the receipts to prove it. Now that I have all these notches under my belt, you can be sure that I will continue to come through. Thank you for spending some time hearing about my journey, I hope you will continue to follow and support us as we grow. Peace from UA.