John Ludwick works on a computer-generated animation project.

ohn Ludwick is one of those lucky people who’ve found a way to make their dreams intersect with their day jobs.

For almost a decade, the assistant professor of art and veteran animator spent thousands of hours outside the classroom creating his 20-minute animated film, “Claire & the Keys,” in which young Claire’s family bonds are tested when she pursues piano lessons without her mother’s blessing.

Ludwick’s dedication to the project didn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues in the School of Art. “A film of this length would typically take someone working on it full-time a few years to create,” said Andy Beane, director of Ball State’s animation program. “It’s a massive accomplishment.”

The image is a still frame from the computer-animated project “Claire & the Keys.”

An ASPIRE grant allowed Ludwick to hire students to help during the last year of work on “Claire & the Keys.”

The idea for “Claire” came to Ludwick during a trip to Poland in 2007. He went on to spend eight years making the film, completing it in April. “By the time I finished, I think I’d drawn Claire about 40,000 times,” he said.

What got Ludwick through his final year of work on “Claire” were the students he hired, thanks to a Ball State ASPIRE grant. Reanna Miller, a graduate animation student, said she got a boost of creative confidence. “Without question, I’m a better artist thanks to the opportunities John’s given me,” she said.

As he continues earning honors and promoting “Claire,” Ludwick said he appreciates the flexibility he has to continue chasing his dreams at Ball State. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. This department is a perfect fit for me.”

To see a video excerpt of “Claire,” check out


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