CCAD Stories: Kelechukwu (Kaycee) Nwakudu

Kaycee Nwakudu portrait

Kelechukwu (Kaycee) Nwakudu (Animation, 2020) wants to know everything about everything.

He’s on his way.

The youngest of four, Nwakudu graduated from Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria, at age 20 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Not long after that, he relocated to Chicago with his family. And not long after that, he started considering his next step. That’s when he decided to apply to art school.

Columbus College of Art & Design caught his eye for its location—the Midwest—and for its financial aid offer, Nwakudu said. Those practical considerations paid off. At CCAD he’s found the opportunity to pursue his cross-disciplinary fascinations in a city that’s just the right size.

Nwakudu’s mother ran a library across the street from where he grew up and once gave him a book about inventors who changed human history. “I was like, ‘that could be me,’” he recalled. “I want to be able to affect people positively, and I feel like just learning, opening yourself up to all the information and knowledge and skills and everything, is a path to immortality, basically.”

kaycee in library

Kaycee looks for inspiration in the library 

kaycee working

Kaycee works on sketches. 

kaycee in big boo costume contest

Kaycee and Samuel Koh at CCAD's annual Big Boo party; dressed as Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan from Rush Hour.

How does someone go from studying mechanical engineering to animation?

I have always been curious. I always wanted to know a lot more about every different thing. ... I used to tell myself, when I was younger, “You can do anything.” And so I picked up what I thought would be interesting at the time. I liked to take stuff apart when I was little. But I found that—I say—“I don’t like math, but I appreciate math.” And I didn’t want to have to make myself do math for the rest of my life. And so, I thought, why not do something else?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I started out with a love for comics, and my initial thought was to come to CCAD for Comics … but I found myself mostly drawing people in cartoons and comics, doing a lot of comic book–style drawings, and, I thought, wouldn’t it be better if I can make them move? You can do whatever you want, right? So you should animate it. So that’s how I came to CCAD for Animation.


What has CCAD’s cross-disciplinary curriculum meant for your studies?

Studying engineering in Nigeria means you’re pretty much only taking engineering classes. We did take preliminary psychology and English language, but the program is more focused on engineering... I felt here I had the opportunity to take a minor in something completely different from what I’m doing. I can take all these different ideas from different fields and apply them to the same thing—my art.

Right now, I’m in an abnormal psychology class. It’s interesting to learn about all the different personality types and it gives me a better understanding of cultural differences. I took a writing class and film—I’m minoring in Cinematic Arts. I’m in an experimental video class and it appeals to another side of me.

My concentration is on 2D animation, but 3D animation is not beyond my reach. Virtual reality is not beyond my reach. Experimental film is not out of reach. Glassmaking is not out of reach—I want to take craft classes just to see how much I can extract from those processes and include in my animation.

kaycee working

Kaycee works on 2D Animation homework in the Cloyd Animation Center  

kaycee in library

Photos taken by Ty Wright for CCAD 

kaycee painting

A painting by Kaycee.  

You’re also an assistant in CCAD’s Continuing & Professional Studies program. What has that experience been like?

I’ve worked with kids, I’ve worked with adults, and I’ve used it as an opportunity to learn—I’ve made a point of assisting in classes where I don’t have any previous knowledge. So right now, I’m in an oil painting class. It’s also given me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people around Columbus.

I’m an artist pursuing art as a profession, but I think, either way, if it’s a hobby or a profession, you should tackle it with the same vigor because you never know where it will take you. Don’t treat this as a pass-fail sort of thing. You’ve got to treat this opportunity like a valuable skill that could transform into something else.

Find more about Kaycee Nwakudu and his work on Vimeo or Instagram.

Find out more about CCAD’s Animation program or apply here.