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December 20, 2011

Center for Cartoon Studies Gets a New Home

CCSxmasIt's been a big year for the Center for Cartoon Studies. The nation's only cartoon school, based in White River Junction, kicked off 2011 with the announcement of Vermont's first, official cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

In August, CCS did battle with Tropical Storm Irene when the White River poured into the building housing the school's Charles Schultz Library (they saved all the books).

This week, CCS announces a very happy culmination to the year: a new building.

Well, a new old building. CCS closed yesterday on its purchase of the historic post office on South Main Street, which was constructed in 1934. The Colonial Revival-style brick structure has also been a Vermont District Court and a private office building.

It's about to become the school's HQ, housing classrooms, much-needed faculty space, and the library. Existing tenants in the upper floor offices will remain and their rent will help to pay the mortgage on CCS' first fully-owned building.

"There's so much discussion about the post office now," notes school co-founder Michelle Ollie. Earlier this month, the feds targeted WRJ's mail-processing facility for closure, a decision that would eliminate 252 local jobs, and which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got postponed until May. It wouldn't be the first disruption in the town's postal functions. The distribution center, built in 1964, supplanted the post office in WRJ's historic district.

"We'll be occupying a building that hasn't been used by the post in decades," Ollie observes. "It's positive news, a positive reuse. It's kind of answering a lot of things."

She reveals that the seller of the building, real estate developer (and CCS board member) Bayle Drubel, gave CCS "a price point that is just unbelievable — a couple hundred thousand [dollars] below market value." And so far, the school has received $93,000 in pledges to help pay for its new digs. After renovations, she and CCS co-founder James Sturm will greet new students there in fall 2012.

The Center for Cartoon Studies, which launched in 2005, offers one- and two-year certificates and an MFA in cartooning, as well as summer workshops. Students and graduates of the school contribute to a biweekly comics page, Drawn and Paneled, in Seven Days.

Illustration by CCS alum Alexis Frederick-Frost

A well-deserved expansion for CCS; they outgrew the original space almost as soon as they opened. The school has really changed WRJ for the better and is an amazing example of the creative economy at work. Congratulations to James Sturm, Michelle Ollie, the CCS staff and all the students.

Just one correction to your article - CCS is not the only cartooning school in the U.S. New Jersey's Kubert School has been operating since the late 1970s (CCS Prof Steve Bissette was in the first graduating class). And I think a new cartooning school just opened this year in Florida.

I hope it is not in the flood plain.

Dan-thanks for the correction! I'll note that in our first paper back in January.

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