Dennon Walantus, Class of 2019
- B.F.A. in Painting, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Independent Artist
“My time at SUNY Plattsburgh was crucial for the development of my professional artistic career. Although my love for painting couldn’t be swayed, the broad range of courses in both 2-D and 3-D work gave me a greater understanding for my personal work in painting and drawing. The skills I learned technically, mentally, and professionally gave me a kick start into the world as a working artist. Many times these programs prepare you for grad school to go for the M.F.A., but for me I wanted to work, to create, exhibit, and become an artist on my own terms. The B.F.A. program here at Plattsburgh State completely prepared me for this, as the faculty was always willing and available to provide insight into life as an artist and give guidance to the right path for you.
One class in particular that opened my eyes to the possibilities was Advanced Painting. The involvement of each student contributing ideas and showing their own way of working benefitted the whole group of painters. This way of working together, along with personal instruction and guidance from Peter Russom was a huge influence in finding my way. It was a competitive community that was always there to help out.
My career as a painter after SUNY Plattsburgh began as an Artist-in-Residence for SUNY-ESF, in the heart of the Adirondack Park. This began as a two-month agreement, but turned into a year-long job teaching plein-air painting to students and building my personal body of work. I want all young students to know this because there is opportunity for a career as an artist — follow your passion. All you need is the guidance given at Plattsburgh State along with a strong work ethic!”
Abraham K De Veer, Class of 2018
- M.A. in Studio Art, Graphic Design and Related Media, SUNY Albany
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Technical Specialist/Creative, Apple, Inc.
“The versatility of the art program encouraged me to combine different courses in the art program. The freedom of creative exploration allowed coincidental and unexpected connections that made it possible to utilize the historic perspectives that art history presented and use them to complement my design and painting work and grow from it. Combining these aspects led to surprising analogies which were always critiqued after every project. Through these critique sessions with incredibly supportive classmates and professors who were nothing short of exceptional, I was challenged to discover a voice I didn't know I had. That voice has played a central role in my work.
“Critical thinking is vital to being a creative — to planning, to imagination, to communication and to engagement in the various mediums of art I participated in — Advanced Painting, Advanced Drawing and Graphic Design. This created more opportunities for me to broaden my horizon for future projects. As a result of this, my confidence and body of work improved drastically.
“The curriculum as a whole is intensive and steers students onto the right track. By having professionals in the field of the arts as mentors, the professors were always ahead in probing and analyzing the student’s next steps and structured each semester’s courses to meet these criteria. Departmental reviews also helped students curate their works of art systematically to meet professional standards. Having been shaped in part by the collegial and creative — yet rigorous — environment at SUNY Plattsburgh, I found myself able to communicate, innovate and collaborate in ways that enabled me to build a successful portfolio and eventually to find a rewarding path to graduate school.
“The art department was an ideal place to find my voice and build a support system. My mentors, professors and peers challenged me to grow. They gave me honest feedback and ideas on any work I produced and they also suggested artists to study to help widen my scope in the arts. The key to the department’s success is that everyone in the program had a stake in one another’s success.”
Emma Huneck, Class of 2014
- B.F.A in Painting, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Minor in Art History, Museum Studies
- Assistant Director, The Sketchbook Project & Brooklyn Art Library
“The quality of instruction in the art department was absolutely top-notch. The professors truly care about the students and our success. I felt fortunate enough to work closely under the guidance and mentorship of professors both within my concentration areas and in other areas. They each helped point me in the direction I wanted to pursue. I am forever grateful for their guidance and contagious enthusiasm for the arts, as it helped shape who I am as an artist, arts professional, and as an individual. I can say with confidence that my career would not be where it is if I had not earned my degree from this program.”
Liam Ward, Class of 2013
- M.F.A. in Studio Art, University of Alabama
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Photography, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Former Videographer and Video Producer on a top 5 rated outdoor television show (Flora, MS)
- Currently the Multi-Media Producer of Marketing at Daniel Defense (Savannah, GA)
“My time spent at SUNY Plattsburgh changed my life forever. I came into school as a political science major, with an interest in art. My first semester, I took a drawing class and a photography class. Those two classes made me realize that my real passion was creating a visual story, and my professors gave me the belief that this could be a very fulfilling life path. Sue Lezon became my main mentor and has since become one of the most influential people in my life. Her passion for photography and her genuine care for her students helped ignite the same passions within me. My time spent at SUNY Plattsburgh not only gave me the skills to become a successful artist, but to become a fully realized person.
“I will always remember critiques, classes, and even random meetings in professors’ offices. That one-on-one guidance is what separates SUNY Plattsburgh from other programs. I owe every ounce of my success to the program and its great professors.”
Katie Booth, Class of 2013
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Photography, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Photo editor, Women in the World in association with The New York Times
“I started at SUNY Plattsburgh planning to concentrate in graphic design, but I didn’t anticipate I’d become so absorbed in photography. Since that first semester I spent in the darkroom, I haven’t stopped making photos. My professors encouraged and pushed me technically and intellectually at every step. They got to know me and my work on a personal level, so that when I changed my concentration to photography, I wasn’t starting from scratch, I was adding to my foundation as an artist. Sue Lezon became an incredible mentor. She has become one of the most influential voices in my life. She exudes a passion for all things photography in everything she does, and she helped me to recognize that same passion within myself.
“I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with the tools to work independently and competitively in the art world. Through internships that led to jobs, I’ve begun to build a career as a photographer and photo editor in New York City. I am constantly referring back to the many unforgettable critiques, conversations, and lessons I learned from my professors and fellow students. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I realized how truly unique and invaluable the community in the Art Department at SUNY Plattsburgh is.”
Dane Winkler, Class of 2012
- M.F.A., University of Maryland, College Park
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Sculpture, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Assistant Professor of Sculpture, UNC, Greensboro
“The first section of advanced sculpture was a true eye opener. It taught me about making sculpture from a technical and conceptual perspective. The professor Drew Goerlitz was the first to expose me to sculpture beyond ‘statues,’ which was all I knew of prior. I really enjoyed the Friday classes too when we would all meet with an example of a contemporary sculpture to share and talk about it as a group.
Hannah O’Toole, Class of 2012
- Graduate student, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Architecture
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, Concentrations in Printmaking and Sculpture, SUNY Plattsburgh
“Advance printmaking was the course I was most passionate about during my time at SUNY Plattsburgh. It provided me the freedom to experiment with new techniques and explore different conceptual ideas, while gaining thoughtful and inspirational critiques from both professors and peers. The combination of these experiences allowed me to find direction for my final body of work for the Senior Exhibition and gave me a path to move forward on as an artist after graduation. I had learned how to find inspiration and what works best for me in the artmaking process.
“I enjoyed the nurturing environment in the art program. It allowed me to learn that failure is essential. It is not to be feared or frowned upon but viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow from. This is one lesson that has aided me in both my artmaking career and in my current studies in architecture.
“I liked the sense of community in the art department and the overall campus. It allowed me to challenge myself to seek out new experiences and meet new people during my time at SUNY Plattsburgh, from being a resident assistant to joining a dance team. It was a great balance between academics and participating in a greater community.”
Jason Roth, Class of 2011
- M.F.A. in Sculpture, Montclair State University of New Jersey
- B.F.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Sculpture, SUNY Plattsburgh
“My time in Plattsburgh was crucial for my current career choice. The skills, friendships, and memories I acquired are with me every day that I make art. My professors showed me the proper work ethics needed to be noticed when opportunities arise. The facilities became my second home and I always appreciated the access to key tools and information that enabled me to succeed.
“I always enjoyed the diversity of studios to work in. I could work on many different mediums at once. Professors were very warm and offered individual critique. Many members of the faculty would never mind taking time to help.
“When searching for a master’s degree, the professors at Plattsburgh were helpful in letting me know what to expect in that environment. Aside from academia, my experience with faculty showed me what an artist’s life will be like outside the classroom.
James Ewin, Class of 2010
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Graphic Design with a Photography Complement, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Founder & Managing Director of ORCA, a creative design agency based in Bristol, UK
- Founder and Director of Briefbox, an online educational platform
“As a business owner of a creative agency, I spend much of my time presenting creative concepts, running client workshops and leading internal creative sessions with my own staff. Each of these tasks require skills I developed during my graphic design classes with David Powell. We were encouraged to discuss our creative process with the group and to present our reasoning for each concept, something which I found challenging at the time, but which helped to build the confidence and skills that I require each day. Straight after graduation, I set up my own company and we’re still going strong 7 years later.
“As a creative person, the opportunities available to me at SUNY Plattsburgh were second to none. If I wasn’t checking out the latest design book from the library or staying late in the print rooms to work on my own art, I was browsing the awesome permanent collection at the campus art gallery or using the photography dark rooms after hours. I could freely use all the awesome equipment and studio workshops whenever I liked, something which I took for granted at the time but which I now miss hugely!
“The college lifestyle at Plattsburgh was great, it was easy to meet new people through various organized events and just through general campus life. As a keen snowboarder, soccer player and outdoor enthusiast I was able to access the surrounding mountains quickly and easily, and join a soccer team. There were a huge amount of other students with the same interests so this became part of daily life at Plattsburgh.
“SUNY Plattsburgh is more than just the classes and the course, it’s also the people, the community, the campus, the town, the geographical location, the sport, the events and the lifestyle. It’s a way of life which I really miss.”
Jenny Hutchinson, Class of 2007
- M.F.A. in Painting, Clemson University
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Painting with a Drawing Complement, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Curator of Education and Programs, The Hyde Collection
“I transferred to Plattsburgh in the middle of my sophomore year. When I arrived, I was captivated by the amount of artwork that adorned the hallways of the Myers Fine Art building and galleries. Not many students can casually walk by an artwork by Philip Pearlstein or Auguste Rodin on their way to class. You could easily find inspiration by roaming the galleries or hallways of the art building, and I discovered many of my favorite art heroes by way of the collection and exhibitions.
“The drawing classes were my favorite because of the open and creative atmosphere. There was great camaraderie among the students and Pete Russom set the tone with his positive attitude. There was always something interesting and challenging to draw, the life drawing set ups could be quite sculptural and dramatic.
“Pete’s guidance has greatly influenced my professional career as an educator. Working in a museum, you encounter many different people with various interests and varying levels of knowledge about art. One of my greatest passions has become helping others discover their own appreciation for art. Pete demonstrated to me how important and powerful creating a moment of awe or revelation about art or a concept can be for someone. I strive to create that atmosphere for others.”
Danny (Shyang-Min) Chang, Class of 2007
- M.F.A. in Design and Technology, Parsons
- B.A. in Art Studio, Concentration in Graphic Design, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Senior product designer at Shutterstock Inc.
“I loved the package design class. It’s hands-on and challenging. One project was to design a package for eggs. We had to design using the form-follows-function principle — something which looks awesome and still protects the eggs from impact.
“Professor Norman Taber is one of a kind. He is humorous and always makes learning into a fun and enjoyable experience. He also knows how to lead the students into what they love to do for the rest of their lives. I did an independent research for package design with him. We dived into package design for high-tech products. That research helped me bridge what I learned in school with trending markets and design needs.
“Unlike design school, the graphic design at SUNY Plattsburgh is well-rounded with other fine art classes. You don’t have to make a decision until you find something you love. How many designers have ever experienced oxy-fuel welding for sculpture? I did.”
Jessica Denaro, Class of 2007
- M.A. in Visual Arts Administration, New York University
- B.A. in Art History, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Director of Annual Giving, Westchester Community College
“I feel so lucky to have fallen into the fine arts department at SUNY Plattsburgh. The faculty cultivated an environment that was inclusive, exploratory, and supportive. I can say for sure that none of my friends studying other disciplines (or even at other colleges for that matter) had the same sense of community from their major.
“I was the first in my family to attend college, and often had to answer the question ‘what are you going to do with THAT degree?’ But how lucky was I to have selected a major that required critical thinking, communicating complex information succinctly, and looking closely at the world around me both visually and historically? Because my professors were paying attention to their students and not just getting through the course work, I am confident that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone to achieve far beyond what I thought possible.”
Erick von Hoffmann, Class of 2004
- B.F.A in Studio Art, Concentration in Painting with a Drawing Complement, SUNY Plattsburgh
“The emphasis placed on creating a strong cohesive body of work, helped prepare me for graduate school and beyond.
“The quality of instruction at the SUNY Plattsburgh art program is truly unique. The faculty care deeply about the success of every student.”
Nicolas Gaudreau, Class of 2004
- M.A. in Museum Studies, Syracuse University
- B.A. in Art History, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Professional fundraiser
Nicolas Gaudreau excelled as an art history major specializing in 19th-century French prints and feminist art history. While completing his studies, Nick interned at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, where he attracted the support of numerous donors that enabled him to acquire 16 works for the permanent collection, including prints by Cassatt and Picasso among others. He also curated a large exhibition of those works in Feinberg Library’s Kent Gallery. Nick had raised over $30,000 for the Museum before he graduated. During his student years, he was vice president for the arts in the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association, served as a teaching assistant and worked with studio art majors to assist them with best professional practices.
Mr. Gaudreau went on to earn his master’s degree in museum studies at Syracuse University, concentrating in museum development and administration. He has now been a professional fundraiser for cultural organizations for over a decade. Using his love for the business of art that began at SUNY Plattsburgh, he has represented the financial needs of cultural organizations to philanthropists ranging from presidents to the Imperial Court of Japan and he has raised millions of dollars in support of crucial community programs, including free summer camps for inner-city youth and an ambassadorial tour for cultural exchange through the U.S. State Department. Nick has worked with a children’s museum, an art school, a Native American decorative arts museum, a contemporary glass museum, and a Japanese garden. He is currently the associate director of individual giving with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.
Nick credits his education as an art history major at SUNY Plattsburgh for the trajectory of his career, saying, “It wasn’t just the coursework that gave me what I needed to succeed. It was a great group of professors that pushed me to take every opportunity available.”
Kathleen O’Connell, Class of 2002
- M.F.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Printmaking, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Associate Professor, Middle Tennessee State University
“As with any experience, this program is what you make of it. I chose to challenge myself, and my professors encouraged me raising their expectations accordingly. My frequent interactions with all of my art professors provided me with necessary feedback, encouragement and the right amount of challenge. As a professional currently working in a public university I can attest that the SUNY system is well-known and widely recognized. The Art Department remains strong. In practical terms, I appreciate that I did not leave school with a huge debt.”
Anne Polashenski, Class of 1998
- M.F.A. in Combined Media, Hunter College, 2003
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentrations in Painting and Printmaking, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Visual Artist with years of odd jobs to pay the bills
“I liked the combination of collaborative and independent work I experienced in different art classes at SUNY Plattsburgh. I loved the opportunity I had to study abroad in England and then to participate in the Empire State College Studio Semester in NYC. These opportunities were eye-opening, brought energy and passion to my work and helped me identify the importance of learning about different cultures and places. My world was small before college.
“I changed my major to studio art when I was a sophomore, so I was a bit behind on my basic skills and my most challenging class early on, was Rick Mikkelson’s Drawing I class. I desperately wanted to be as good as everyone else and I was not. But I worked so hard and my skills improved, though it wouldn’t be until a bit later in my life, when I was teaching drawing myself, that I realized and appreciated just how magical Rick’s methods and his class as a whole was. It’s hard to explain how difficult and enjoyable teaching value drawing is, and how learning it is.
“I still have relationships with my professors from Plattsburgh because I think they were genuine then and they are genuine now. Diane Fine and I have had a strong relationship since I met her in 1995 and we share similar interests and values, I interviewed her in grad school for a paper I wrote about her, and I ask her for advice even now. I trust her and cherish her as a mentor.”
Dennis Delay, Class of 1996
- M.S. in School Counseling, University of Vermont, 2007
- B.A. in Art, Concentrations in Painting and Printmaking
- School Counselor
“In those exploratory years of my undergraduate studies, the art program at SUNY Plattsburgh provided a great environment for learning. The professors challenged and nurtured students’ technical skills, they connected with and supported us both personally and emotionally, and they represented diverse aesthetic approaches and teaching styles. Their collegiality and collaboration was regularly visible, and many remained mentors well after graduation. We had a great deal of liberty in exploring materials, concepts, aesthetics, and projects.
“Since graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh, art-making has remained a constant in my life. Admittedly, this has taken different forms: it has meant exhibiting paintings in galleries, while at other times simply maintaining a sketchbook. Regardless, those years nurturing and establishing a regular creative practice have been seminal in just about all of my personal and professional endeavors.
“As a professional school counselor now, I commonly use the arts — especially drawing, painting, sculpting, and bookmaking — in my work with young children, and I find myself reaching into my SUNY Plattsburgh toolbox regularly.”
Rachel Davis, Class of 1992
- M.F.A. in Printmaking, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentrations in Printmaking and Painting, SUNY Plattsburgh
“I began my studies at SUNY Plattsburgh as an education major and took Introduction to Printmaking on the recommendation of my roommate — she was certain that I would love the teacher. Diane Fine’s Introduction to Printmaking course was an exploration in process as well as topics in contemporary art. Diane’s passion for the medium and her charisma were the key to my decision to change my major to art.
“Both Diane Fine and Rick Mikkelson were incredible mentors. I was encouraged to work out of my comfort zone. Whether through pushing the scale of my work, from small store-bought stretchers to building my own large-scale stretchers, or encouraging me to explore a new series, I gained practical skills and learned to articulate the concepts behind my work.
“In the summer of 1991, I assisted Diane Fine in the production of a series of large scale monoprints. I learned about Diane’s technical process while witnessing her activity as a professional artist and realizing a body of work. I was also invited to participate in a portfolio exchange of students and teachers in which we all created a complex print with a large edition. These experiences honed my skills as a printmaker and professional artist.
“If you are looking for a robust liberal arts experience with a faculty that care deeply about their students, SUNY Plattsburgh is the place. My time at Plattsburgh prepared me for my graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as a professional in my field. I actively exhibit my work in Chicago and nationally.”
Carol Marie Cervelloni-Vossler, Class of 1990
- M.F.A. in Sculpture, Syracuse University
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentration in Sculpture, SUNY Plattsburgh
- A.A.S. in Forest Technology, Paul Smith’s College
- Founder and Artistic Director, BluSeed Studios
“My creative path and artistic success is directly related to my educational experience at SUNY Plattsburgh. I earned my first degree at Paul Smiths College in forestry and worked in the woods for five years as a logger and forester. I entered the art department with minimal art classes or artmaking experience and never consider myself artistic. I was a non-trad student with two children (3 by the time I graduated!) The art professors were not only teachers, they were professional artists, excited and passionate about the art they were exhibiting and knew how to teach their craft to their students. That was the magic. Their ability to bring the student into their own arena and step by step show them how to find their visual voice. They exemplified hard work and commitment and encouraged me to follow my strengths, set new goals and expand my boundaries so I could always find and/or place myself in a creative space.
“Which I did. First by attending graduate school and earning an M.F.A., having a studio in NYC, teaching studio art for eighteen years while becoming the founder and Artistic Director of BluSeed Studios, which is recognized by the New York State Council of the Arts and one of the leading arts organizations in the North Country. I facilitate and curate multiple national & international exhibitions, design professional art integration workshops for K–12 teachers, teach multiple workshops in a variety of mediums and most recently have become a grandmother!
“To future students: There is more to being an artist than making objects. Do not be afraid to be an art major. You can learn critical skills that will give you the creative advantage which employers are looking for in today’s job market. Learn how to write and learn computer skills. Leave your comfort zone. Enroll in Plattsburgh State’s Art department and join the family.”
Laura Winn Kane, Class of 1988
- M.F.A. in Painting, Rochester Institute of Technology
- B.A. in Studio Art, Concentrations in Drawing and Painting, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Artist/Practice Administrator, Stephens Family Dentistry, Hinesburg, VT
“I loved that I found myself engrossed in all things art — from learning its history to learning how to use a variety of media to create meaningful personal work. The faculty were willing to let me pick their brains to find my way and I discovered that they truly cared about me and my success both as a student as well as a person in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience."
“I think that the biggest way the art program informed my choices post-graduation was by simply making me realize how much art is part of life — how art can lend variety and richness to the world. I believe much good can come to others by having art in all its forms in their own lives and try to advocate that when I can."
“I know a lot has changed since my time at Plattsburgh. The fact that there is now an official B.F.A. degree offered — something that I remember Rick Mikkelson and the late Bill Robbins working hard to get established — is one great example. I hope today’s students appreciate and take full advantage or the educational opportunities that exist at Plattsburgh and go on to cherish their time there as I do.”
Michele Costello, Class of 1983
- B.F.A., SUNY Plattsburgh
“What I liked about the art program was that on day one of Drawing 101, I learned to open the arm. Don’t be afraid of the big, blank, white sheet of paper — move around, step back, look for balance, don’t let your eye land on one spot, unless of course you want it to:)! We were taught to look deeply at our subjects: translate that to paper, what is the true direction of the line, how do you create light, shade and shape with a line.
“I also appreciated the accessibility to great studio space and caring professors; people that were willing to nurture the blossoming talents of young individuals — like myself; who started out as a nursing student, that then took an entry level art course as an elective, who then switched majors and found her passion and life course at SUNY Plattsburgh.”
Thomas Galen Bigelow, Class of 1975
- B.A. in Studio Art, Minor in Mass Communications, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Executive Creative Director, Advertising & Marketing Communications
- Advertising agency founder (1985-2017)
“Initially, I explored postgraduate study options until securing a job at a newspaper. While at the newspaper, I continued to explore the graphic arts, art direction, and illustration, building a portfolio of commercially applicable work. I became more and more interested in editorial illustration, visualization and cartooning, which lead to an interest in concept development and idea-driven communications. My first job in advertising was as a storyboard artist for TV commercials. I was a senior art director at GE’s A&SPO Plastics Division office in Pittsfield Mass. by my 23rd birthday."
“I enjoyed my time at SUNY Plattsburgh. It was a launch pad for life-long learning.”
Greg Holmes, Class of 1975
- Clay Artist
- Founder and President of The Holmes Agency, Retired
Art demands creativity, imagination, and sensitivity, but specifically dealing with the physical aspects of hand/eye coordination (drawing), technical/chemical procedures/processes (photography), and the muscle memory/practice of spinning clay into a 3D form (ceramics) were challenges that provided exciting experiences I truly loved.
I was encouraged to think outside and beyond the box/the lines/the status quo. This gave me confidence to explore and tackle the many challenges life always presents to us, whether it be on a personal or business level. As a result, I was able to incorporate my artistic creativity into successful careers as the supervisor/lead photographer at a medical and research university, the founder/president of The Holmes Agency, the director of marketing/advertising in a multimillion dollar first aid and safety company, and the marketing/communication manager in a multibillion publicly traded company. Read about Greg Holmes’s artistic process.