Allyssa Lewis peppers her sentences with exclamation marks — enthusiastic proclamations of herself and her work. And much like New York Magazine’s headline “Exclamation Marks Are Unstoppable Now,” Lewis has an ebullient power. She has the crystalline aura of a front-runner. The sentiment is widely shared. Jimmie Jackson, director of operations for Lewis’ animation powerhouse, My Animation Life, describes her thus: “Not only is she a skilled animator, but her contributions with Asifa-Atlanta [Association Internationale du Film d’Animation] and five seasons at Archer speaks for itself. She has created a place for the animation community and enthusiasts here in Atlanta and is growing.”
More specifically, Lewis is an avid zinester, professional animator and organizer. She grew up “all over” but has settled in Georgia for the past 20 years. “I remember the first time we were coming to Georgia I was really scared. I pictured Georgia people like the Looney Tunes character with a musket [Elmer Fudd]… Everyone in their rocking chairs with a musket telling people to get off their property so they could shoot them.” Now she’s well aware of the diversity that Atlanta has to offer as a major metropolitan city and cultural hub.
In fact, Lewis repeatedly stresses the importance of community in the arts. “I’m here for a reason. I want to promote Georgian art and community. Can I have dual citizenship?” she jokes. Lewis admits her identity is complex and, to others, might contain contradictions. “I’ve grown up as a West Indian American and living in this dual culture has me thinking what labels put on you. It’s a unique experience. To live in two is to wrap your mind around two universes and understand that they exist differently.” This linguistic and cultural code-switching evolves out of her unique and intersectional experiences with double consciousness.
Lewis has known that she wanted to be an animator since the impressively young age of 2. The upbringing that followed this realization formed a creative nexus for her work. Her love of textures and patterns — and exploring the different associations other people have to those images — is evident in her art. An emphasis on community resurfaces many times as Lewis describes her projects. “I love the process of artmaking and of working with other people.”
Her professional background includes lip-sync animation for the FX series Archer. “It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to be directly involved with one of their favorite shows, so I consider my experience a privilege; amazing and often surreal. My favorite aspects of working on Archer were the experiences I had surrounding it,” Lewis says. Even within career-minded animation worlds, the emphasis is on community.
She also values this crossover in organizing work and visual art. “I consider event coordination an art. The stereotype is that it is non-creative. It takes a lot of creativity to pull something together. And I think artists need to not only focus on their brand but their community as well.”
Lewis is an embodiment of her own advice. Soon she will devote full-time focus to her animation-based organization, My Animation Life, which offers staffing services and other resources for artists in animation fields. Workshops, mentorships, portfolio reviews — they maintain an exhaustive list of resources. “We’re unique in that we exclusively cater to the career advancement and portfolio enhancement of animators.”
Navigating call-back periods and trying to find the next project can mire a new animator’s career. MAL addresses the business side of supporting animator artists head-on, offering “everything from contract writing and project pricing, to software techniques and social marketing.”
Importantly, she understands the value of process in artmaking and in organizing. “I enjoy the twitching movements of using my hands and seeing a piece come to fruition. And my work is constantly molding and evolving.” She appreciates multiplicity and methodology. Lewis’ work — as zinester, animator and organizer – reflects this understanding and the importance of sharing it with community.