by Xypher Pino
Anthony “AJ” Schraeder is the media consultant for Greensboro College’s Global Communication Center (GCC) and he serves as a professor for the English, Communication and Media Studies department as well as the Art department. Schraeder is a proud GC alumnus – he attended GC from 2001 to 2005 and was a Presidential Scholar of the honors program. After receiving his bachelor’s in fine arts, Schraeder attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to obtain his master’s in fine arts with a double concentration in drawing and new media.
When asked about his time at GC, Schraeder mentioned how involved he was on campus and how much he “loved taking classes.”
“There was a semester where I took 27 credit hours – it was busy. I was also involved in theater productions even though I was an art major. I even started a 24-hour paint day for the art club where we would make as many art works as we can for 24 hours straight. I was not an athlete but I kept myself busy. I always had 21 or more credit hours except for my final semester where I took 18 since I needed more time in the studio so that I could work on my projects.”
One of these projects was Schraeder’s honors thesis about art collaboration and isolation. He focused on analyzing famous collaborative works from artists such as Frieda and Diego Rivera and Van Gogh and Gauguin. In addition to his research, he and a fellow art major undertook an art project for a week. Afterwards, he then worked on the same project by himself. This gave him the personal insight and experience as to what art collaboration is like and the difference between working with another and by yourself, which proved to be valuable for his honors thesis.
When asked about his most memorable moments as a GC student, Schraeder talked about how he and his friends would attempt the “Dairy Challenge” where they had to drink a gallon of milk as fast as possible.
“We would gather in front of the dorms and chug milk as quickly as possible. It was definitely a memorable experience; I even had an inflatable cow suit that I would wear. I would not recommend this to anyone though – it is not a healthy thing to do and is very bad for you. I did see a man drink a gallon of milk in under four minutes and that is an impressive thing to see!”
After all his years in academia, Schraeder admitted that he was burnt out. After graduate school, he was invited into a group that did comedy shows and tours. He created commercial videos for them while being part of the actual show. This served as a much-needed break from school for him and it set his path towards comedy and commercial videography.
“I did this for about a three-year stint. After this, I got a full-time position working on a travel show which I worked at for an additional two to three years. My initial experience with the group allowed me to grow in that type of professional world.”
At a very young age, Schraeder was already creative and interested in technology. He loved the idea of “figuring out how to incorporate technology into live performances.” He always had an interest in this field and Schraeder said that he would even steal his parents’ digital camcorder to make various videos and projects. He loved the storytelling aspect of media creation and was heavily inspired by the game Dungeons and Dragons. He also credited his inspiration to a former art teacher of his who always said that “art cannot have any mistakes.”
“From them, I learned that until you give up on an art project, it is not wrong. Everything is correctable – if you are willing to invest more and no project is ever really finished. You could always go back and revisit things; nothing is ever finalized.”
Making a career out of art and media creation is not an easy path. Coming from a family that made livings from the mathematics and education field, pursuing a career in the arts was out of the ordinary for Schraeder’s family:
“My parents were always supportive and saw value in my interest in arts. Both my parents, but especially my dad, were definitely worried about it being a career though. They wanted my focus to be in education, which I am now in. I do not blame them though; as an artist, there are not many available jobs. If you are passionate enough about something though, you will find ways to make it work especially if you are willing to make sacrifices along the road until it builds up.”
The path that got Schraeder to where he is now was not an easy one. He faced many challenges and had to remain consistent at an extremely high level:
“In the art world, it is a ‘feast or famine’ scenario. You are going to have months where you feel like you have no time for yourself because you have a lot of clients who want a lot of things done. Money is going to be flowing in but come two months later, nothing will be coming in. You have to be really good at managing your lifestyle while making sure you are always investing your all in something. Each thing you tackle will always lead to another opportunity, so your investments are always worth it. Also, having a strong support network of family and friends definitely helped me in my consistency with work as I could take chances and knew that I would still be fine.”
Outside of art and media creation, Schraeder likes to spend his time on many different activities. He loves going on long walks, rowboat rowing and writing. His number one hobby though is reading. Non-fiction and fantasy are his favorite genres but his favorite book of all-time is ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ a comedic science fiction book.
Outside of GC, Schraeder is involved with numerous organizations and activities. If time allows, Schraeder works at comedic festivals all over the country and works with improv groups. Currently, he is working on a script for an “animation film that will feature puppetry and live-action” that he plans to work on over the summer. He keeps himself busy with various projects to always be involved with the art industry, stating that “any creative personal project that you do, you will need to have a personal drive for.”
My conversation with AJ Schraeder was an absolute blast. The passion he has for his work was radiating throughout our whole conversation and anyone who has had experience with him will tell you the same thing. If you need any assistance with your own art and media projects, Schraeder is available in the GCC through an appointment which is set on the GCC website. Next semester, Schraeder will also be teaching both levels of graphic design, podcasting and sports communication, so look forward to those classes if you have them on your schedule.