With Exhibit of Alumni Work, Art and Design Department Commemorates 50 Years

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

More than 150 alumni, art enthusiasts, and members of the St. John’s community attended an opening reception for an exhibit celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the University’s Department of Art and Design  at the M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery on the Queens campus on November 14.

Featuring the work of 47 alumni, the show features the mediums of painting, illustration, graphic design, photography, video, and animation, reflecting the department’s success in providing graduates with the creative techniques necessary to succeed in their artistic careers.

Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president of St. John’s University; Robert Mangione, Ed.D., R.Ph., provost and professor of pharmacy; Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D., dean and professor of psychology, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and members of The McCallen Society, which consists of planned gift donors to St. John’s, also attended the reception.

“While planning the exhibit,” said Belenna Lauto ’81C, chair of the Department of Art and Design and associate professor of photography, “we noticed a growing interest on the part of alumni to keep in touch and stay current on each other’s work, as well as a sense of pride in the fact that their work has garnered national and international recognition.”

According to Ross Barbera ’73C, associate professor of fine arts, “Everyone’s enthusiasm for the exhibit became apparent when graduates from as far back as 40 years ago submitted their work. As an alumnus and now a professor, I am thrilled to have the privilege of exhibiting with my fellow graduates.”

The department has greatly expanded its degree programs since it was created in 1948–49 by Rev. Lawrence Lonergan, who was the chair. Partnerships have been instituted with New York City arts organizations like the International Center of Photography and the Dorsky Gallery. In 2004, the program earned accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Tom de Vita ’93C traveled to Queens from Florida to attend the reception. “I got a better education at St. John’s than I would have if I went to a specialized art school,” he said. “The program taught me the fundamentals of art and design while also giving me a strong liberal arts education.”  

“This evening makes me feel great to be a student here,” said Diamond Watts-Walker ’14C, who is majoring in illustration. “The program has produced working artists with so much talent.”

Tom Rauch ’06C and Mike Rauch ’04C agreed that St. John’s nurtured their talents in illustration and graphic design and helped them build their own Peabody Award-winning company, Rauch Brothers Animation.

For Michael Marfione ’02C, the University’s Vincentian mission influenced his artistic choices. “My St. John’s education helps explain why I have made videos on themes like the impact of Superstorm Sandy and living conditions in Mumbai, India,” he said.

Given the positive response to the exhibit, plans are underway to mount biannual alumni shows in the future. Parvez Mohsin ’01C, ’05G, director of the gallery and adjunct professor of fine arts, noted that other major liberal arts colleges and universities also have art galleries.  “However, as part of a Vincentian institution,” he said, “our gallery is distinguished by its dedication to showing art that promotes issues of social justice.”

The exhibit is open to the public and on view through January 4, 2014.