I lost touch over the years and only recently heard about the passing of Andy. I was stunned to hear the news and wanted to share my story: While attending art school I worked at COCA as a front desk girl- starting in 2007. My position allowed me to really get to know the COCA community and I loved it. There’s no doubt that Andy was the heart of COCA. You knew you weren’t going to meet many people like him in your lifetime and you felt lucky to be having the opportunity.
Being a sensitive person it stood out to me that Andy understood my struggles and pain, on a deeper level than most. But one of the things I liked most about him was his ability to connect with his students. Andy took the outcast kids under his wing, and would stay after class talking to them as long as they desired. Andy never looked bored or annoyed, instead very interested in what they were saying. When I closed up the building at night he always made sure I got to my car safely. Andy’s talents were extraordinary, his thoughtfulness even more so.
At COCA during Spirit Week we had a day called “Dress As Your Favorite COCA Person.” I proudly greeted patrons at the front desk wearing my Andy Neiman costume (see attached). The kids were so surprised when they saw me and they loved it, all taking turns to be photographed with me. Being Andy for the day was exhausting but it really showed me how popular and loved he was by his students. As years progressed I lost touch with my COCA friends but I often think about Andy and the impression he had on me. I now work as a commercial artist- my illustrations and art prints sell at stores like Target and Walmart. I like to think that the people I met at COCA really helped shape me into the artist I am today. My time with Andy taught me to always be authentic, and to look for people that need friends, and then take the time to talk to them- and really listen.