Nude College: Students work as figure models at Ringling

Photo courtesy of Jessica Leob
The above sketch of NCF alum (’11) is just one example of the different artwork student-artists make in these figure classes.

For some, an average day of work consists of being naked in a room filled with ambitious student-artists.

I had no idea what to expect before I started my first day, and I really wish I could say that I was cool and casual about it from the very beginning, but my first time disrobing on the stand, my heart was beating so fast,” second-year and nude figure model Katerina Diamond-Sagias said.

The Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has been hiring students from New College as models for figure drawing classes that are offered at the art school. “They’re close by, young, and enthusiastic,” figure model coordinator Fran Avenoso said of the student models. “They’re all also really smart.”

After filling out an application found on the RCAD website, potential figure models are contacted for a criminal and background check, followed by an orientation with Avenoso, and training with an artist for two to three sessions.

“Enjoy it and be professional,” Avenoso advised. “We understand that they’re standing in front of 20 to 30 people.”

The experience of being naked in a room full of student-artists has been eye-opening for the models. “Before I started, I had no idea how I would feel disrobing before a room full of strangers, and it was entirely possible to me that I would just start screaming and run away,” Diamond-Sagias said. “I gave myself permission, at that point, to stop if I couldn’t handle it. But I could, and I did, and it felt wonderful and empowering.”

New College alum Jessica Loeb (‘11) worked as a figure model for several months. “I just always thought, since I was a first-year, that it was a really cool job,” Loeb said. “I like art a lot, I like the human form, and I like using my body. It seemed like a really neat thing and I was drawn towards it.” Loeb also cited the pay and RCAD being within biking distance as other factors that influenced her decision to apply.

“I would do different positions,” Loeb said. “It’s hard because you have to hold this position but also think of interesting things for people to draw. […] I always worked nude but there are some classes where you have costumes, or bring your costume, or use different drapery.”

Loeb said that the process from applying to getting hired could be a long one. She recommended that interested students make sure to follow up on their application.

I didn’t hear back from anyone,” Diamond-Sagias said of when she first applied. “I was discouraged, but I waited until the applicant pool re-opened for the 2015-2016 semester and sent in my application again. A few months passed, I got another job, and I had almost completely forgotten about figure modeling until I received a call from the model coordinator, Fran Avenoso, in early September.”

Another benefit of the job is its flexibility. Avenoso said that she has had employees who would only come in for the evening class, or others who would come in two days out of the week.

The most striking thing for both Diamond-Sagias and Loeb was how the experience of being a nude figure-model personally contributed to their own body positivity.

You really don’t think about all of your little physical tics and habits, the way you might jiggle your legs or play with your hair until you have to stand completely still for 20 minutes or 40 minutes,” Diamond-Sagias said. “It’s then that you become hyper-aware of every inch of your body, especially in the beginning, and reigning it in but also projecting a presence from it is really challenging. I really like this job as a weird form of self-care, a way of paying attention to my body and the way I feel about it not only as a physical object, but as an extension of myself.”


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