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SUNY Plattsburgh Senior Gets Honorable Mention in State Art Exhibition

People of Plattsburgh

artist zach buzzell

SUNY Plattsburgh senior Zach Buzzell brings his life experience, including military service and his experience in construction, to his work as a sculptor.

The Bloomingdale, N.Y. native is among seven SUNY student artists statewide selected for scholarships based on work submitted for the “Best of SUNY Art Exhibition.”

Scholarship Award ‘Validating’

“It means an incredible amount to me,” Buzzell said. “Starting school a little bit later in my life, I started in my 30s, kind of taking a leap for art school, changing my career field and going for art wasn’t necessarily understood by my friends and family as to why I would choose this. It feels incredibly validating and reassuring that I made the right decision on my career path.”

Buzzell received a $500 scholarship for an honorable mention at the exhibit. He plans to graduate in December with a B.F.A. in sculpture. His work was on display as part of the 2024 B.F.A. Senior Exhibition in the Lobby Gallery and Burke Gallery of the Myers Fine Arts Building.

He also works as a construction trades teacher at CV-TEC at Plattsburgh, which provides career and technical education programs. Buzzell teaches high schoolers how to operate tools safely, each phase of furniture building and all the construction skills they need to build an entire house.

“Teaching is a trade that I enjoy,” Buzzell said. “What I like about CV-TEC is that it provides them (students) with the same opportunities that I had growing up as a plausible way of earning a living.”

Faculty Played ‘Pivotal Role in Life’

Buzzell said he might like to be an art teacher in the future. He said that teaching art at SUNY Plattsburgh like his instructor and mentor Drew Goerlitz, associate professor of art, is a dream of his.

goerlitz“He’s played one of the most pivotal roles in my life. I’d like to acknowledge his patience, his understanding and his friendship,” he said. “He’s the reason why I wanted to become a teacher, and his teaching style has heavily influenced how I teach my 40 students.”

Even though Buzzell learned how to use various tools from a young age, coming from a family a builders, Goerlitz has showed him tricks with saws and molds for concrete sculpture elements that have improved his technique, he said.

“Just having access to his amount of knowledge is huge and something I’ve never taken for granted.”

Goerlitz said Zach brings his life experiences and the resulting knowledge into the classroom.

“We’re very fortunate to add Zach’s name to a rich history of students who have received this award,” Goerlitz said. “It shows the continued excellence and dedication our students put into their work.”

Resilience as a Theme in Sculpture

Buzzell said art has offered solace and is a form of therapy.

“A lot of my pieces have to do with resilience,” something many people can relate to, he said.

“I was medically retired from the U.S. Air Force (after eight years), 100 percent disabled. So, I was going through a lot, and it helped me process the way I was feeling coming out of the (service).”

buzzell lampHe said his art classes helped him discover who he is and what is important to him.

“In the military, you get structured to live in this box, that way of thinking. Your individualism gets stripped out. This has been a really good way to figure out who I am and the way I want to be in the future and grow as a person.”

Sculpture’s Connection to Daughter

The sculpture that earned the honorable mention, “Hugging lamp,” was sold while displayed at the H. Carl McCall Building in Albany.

The piece’s name comes from its shape, which Buzzell said mirrors the way his daughter, Zoey, would lay against him when she was an infant at the time he fashioned the piece in 2022.

“When I was holding the structure and I was moving the structure around, I started noticing that the lamp kind of hugged my shoulder like I was holding her. So, it just felt like it was her cuddling up against me.”

Fellow Students ‘Supportive’

He’s grateful the art department offers a welcoming environment for students to explore their talents, Buzzell said.

“I’ve met some phenomenal artists who are my professors,” he said. “It’s a safe space to express yourself. I’ve never sensed any judgement down there. The fellow students are all super supportive. It’s a really good community to be a part of. Having their feedback, having access to other creative people helps you grow in your own work.”

— Story, Photos by Felicia Krieg with Photo of “Hugging lamp” provided

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