In the history of the University of Arizona Wildcat School of Art, only one other student has achieved what Brody Loeffler has: successfully completed 12 years in the arts education program.
And Loeffler, 17, is on track to complete a 13th year in the program that he credits with enhancing his love for and understanding of the expansive world of art.
"My experience has been nothing but enjoyable. It's been one of the really great things in my life," said Loeffler, a high school junior.
"It was really nice to be introduced to new art forms, and I really like that I was able to do some interesting things in class," he said.
Through the years, Loeffler has graduated from pencil drawings to practicing printmaking, screen printing, papier-mâché, 3-D collages and a range of other forms. All the while, his conceptions of art have evolved, which is one emphasis of the UA program.
"When you look at some pieces that are really complex they can be hard to understand, or they might just be artful," Loeffler said. "But if I see a piece of art, I am going to try to understand it."
Loeffler first learned about the program through his mother, Alicita Loeffler.
Alicita Loeffler tells the story that her son was quite adept at drawing from a very young age, preferring pencil drawings. Some of his works were so compelling that she chose to frame them, placing them in her office at work.
A co-worker who had seen the drawings encouraged the family to seek out Wildcat Art.
At that point, Loeffler had taken to drawing marine creatures and soon exhibited a deep creative imagination.
"He would draw different types of fish and sometimes sharks, but they were very different; they had a different movement in them," Loeffler said, "One of the things that really fascinated me about his drawing was that he would sign his name and put a shark's teeth in the 'y' or make the 'y' the tail of a fish."
In fact, his name is derived from police chief Martin Brody, a charater from the movie "Jaws." Literally. Interestingly, while Loeffler maintains a deep investment in the arts, he hopes to pursue studies in marine biology.
"My husband and I have always loved the movie and the book, and we would spent lots of time fishing off of the east of Long Island. I guess he took to it," Alicita Loeffler said. "Brody once told me that he sees art in everything; a world full of art. Wherever he goes, he has this artistic vision."
And that vision had to be cultivated. For Brody Loeffler, he found that intense training and mind-broadening experience in Wildcat Art.
Also interesting: No known Loeffler is an artist, said Alicita Loeffler. But, in addition to Brody Loeffler, his younger sister, 14-year-old Reid, has become involved in Wildcat Art.
"For the children, it's a mutually beneficial environment, and it is such a positive thing," said Alicita Loeffler. "We brag about the program. It's great."
In addition to support from the faculty and staff involved in Wildcat Art, Alicita Loeffler said she and her husband have been especially appreciative that the program engages students in creativity, critical thinking and mentoring.
"It's been great for us to expose our children to students who have goals in their lives," she said. "It's a very nurturing environment and one that helps people to delve into their passions. For them to have that opportunity is wonderful."
The experience at Wildcat Art is something they will take into their futures, Alicita Loeffler said.
That cultivation is at the core of the program, said Lynn Beudert, a UA professor in the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education, which runs Wildcat Art. This semester, the program was led by doctoral students Barbara Bergstrom and Darden Bradshaw.
"Parents and guardians really see the value of the Wildcat School," Beudert said, adding that the Loeffler's commitment – and the commitment of others – to the program speak volumes to the value of the program. Additionally, numerous other youth have attended the program for multiple years.
"This says a lot for the program, as well as the need to have visual arts programs that exist outside schools for children and youth," Beudert said, adding that the program offers scholarships out of its Appleton-Potter Endowment to cover the program's tuition.
In fact, the program offers art for K-12 students who have few or no opportunities for art education, or to study art in their schools, Beudert said.
"Part of the mission of the Division of Art and Visual Culture Education is to explore and contribute to the art education development of learners – young and old. I think we model this in our Wildcat program."
Though time is nearing for Loeffler to move beyond Wildcat Art, he is looking forward to his final year in the program before entering college.
"The UA will be my most obvious choice," said Loeffler, who also noted that he is a fan of the University's Mineral Museum and other art institutions. "It saddens me that I am getting to the end of the road with Wildcat Art, but I will try and explore art in other classes."