Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art at Keuka College, has added to her growing portfolio of public and commissioned works, and can now boast the 2015 Fact Book cover for Yates County, distributed by the Chronicle-Express/Ad-Viser newspaper.
According to Gwen Chamberlain, editor of the Chronicle-Express, each year the newspaper tries to utilize the cover of the Fact Book to highlight an element of life in Yates County and this year the editorial team wanted to shine a light on the arts and Yates County artists. However, the publication was nearing deadline without a work to grace the cover.
Enter Karen Morris, the paper’s publisher, who knew Newcomb through previous work together on the Keuka Arts Festival steering committee. Morris mentioned a mixed media of Newcomb’s the committee had seen during the process of selecting art for the Festival’s annual poster. It just so happened Morris still had a copy of Newcomb’s work when she and Chamberlain met for another discussion on the Fact Book cover.
“It was really kind of magical how it all came together within a matter of minutes,” Chamberlain described.
It’s not the first major piece which Newcomb has had showcased to the public.
In 2011, the Marathon Engineering company in Rochester commissioned her for a 6-foot by 8-foot pen-and-ink mural of the Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge along the Genesee River on Route 490 in Rochester. The enormous work was completed in 2012 and is on display at the company’s offices.
In 2014, Newcomb was asked to illustrate several pages of a historic novel written by Timothy Munn of Shortsville, Newcomb’s hometown. Published by Lightning Press of New Jersey, the book came out in print in April 2014 and features both a cover designed by Newcomb as well as numerous line drawings throughout the chapters. The author commissioned Newcomb to illustrate historical retellings of the days when baseball and the railroad intersected at the historic Roundhouse (a railroad mechanism which moves engines via a circular turntable) in Shortsville. According to Newcomb, Round House 9 is the third book on shelves containing her drawings or photographs.
Munn previously commissioned her in 2004 for illustrations and in 2008 for photography on projects related to local history, published by the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
According to Dr. Jennie Joiner, division chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of English, commissioned works for an artist are the equal of publications or conference presentations in other academic disciplines.
“The goal of faculty is to be active in innovation—new ideas or new ways of seeing, being, or interacting with the world. Within the cover, Professor Newcomb created an artistic frame and visual representation of the beauty of Yates County, and she literally frames the landscape with artistic tools and other artifacts (the flowers, bottle, coffee mug) from the area. Thus, her artwork gives us a new way of seeing Yates County.
“Additionally, Professor Newcomb is modeling the way in which artists continually have to seek out and create opportunities to both showcase their work and create an audience for their art,” Joiner added. “Her work and active practice of her art further demonstrates to students the tangibility of the artistic process as a profession. She doesn’t just teach, she creates!”
Another potential commission may be in the works as officials at UR Medicine’s Thompson Health recently met with Newcomb to explore a possible commission for artwork to decorate select locations within its Canandaigua hospital. However, such a project is still in exploratory stages and nothing official has yet been decided.
For her part, Newcomb said she is excited when interest is taken in her personal art creations, and she is thrilled for new opportunities to share her art with others in the community.
“Commissions involving murals, or even publications open so many doors to networking with new people whom I may have not met otherwise. This allows for relationships to be built in different areas! Each opportunity happened because these people believed in me and supported my development as a professional artist.”
“With these opportunities, I’ve also been able to grow as an educator, since the variety of artistic practices enables me to bring a knowledge of skill sets to prepare students for the business side in a world hungry for art and design.”
“My advice to art students and graduates in the field is to use your creative thinking skills, be uncomfortable, and face your fears,” she said. ”If you can do that, then you can achieve anything.”
This spring’s senior art show at Keuka College will feature the works of four seniors, each accomplished artists in their own rights and each with their own signature style.
Their joint exhibit, “Underneath It All,” will be featured in Lightner Gallery in the Lightner Library at Keuka College from April 20 – May 15. An artists’ reception, where light refreshments will be served, will be held Thursday, April 23, from 4:30-6 p.m.
Within the show are four separate themes conveying the work of each student artist. Potsdam resident Kaycee Maguire’s segment, “Ode to Spring,” features patterned designs created by the lacrosse midfielder who is completing a minor in graphic design and marketing. Horseheads resident Danielle Alred created a series of movie posters depicting the hidden, inner world where people can battle any of the seven deadly sins, while appearing otherwise fine on the outside in her works, “7 Deadly.” Dundee resident Jesse Ninos is going big with his larger-than-life mixed media and graphic design with an art noveau style in “We are Dragons.” Meanwhile, Interlaken resident Megan Chase uses watercolor paint, black india ink and fabrics to showcase women “Breaking the Boundaries” of traditional standards of beauty.
“I see women as snowflakes— while there are millions, there are no two who are exactly alike. Our differences as human beings should be praised rather than shamed,” Chase offered as explanation for her presented works.
In her four years on campus, Chase said she was able to explore many different mediums and styles of art as well as writing (she’s passionate about both) and will graduate with a diverse skill set, thanks to her visual and verbal art degree. After a digital photography course followed by a Foundations of Art course during her freshman year, Chase said she chose to switch her major from English to visual and verbal art.
“I am leaving Keuka College with a lot more than just an art degree, I’m leaving with communication skills that can be applied to all other aspects in life as well as a career. The program here has really allowed me to find and pursue my passions in life and I believe it allows all art majors to do so,” Chase said.
For Maguire, Keuka College offers a “ton of resources,” she said, counting Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, among them. “Ms. Newcomb is a great advisor who always pushes students to strive for the best,” Maguire said.
“Graduating as one of the first few with an art & design major is awesome,” Maguire added, referring to the major the College introduced in 2013. “I have a ton of experience in a variety of fields. This program is headed in a great direction.”
And it’s preparing graduates for success too, as evidenced by the job offer Danielle Alred of Horseheads already received, to join the Elmira Jackals hockey team as its art director after graduation. Alred conducted a Field Period™ study with the Jackals in January, providing graphic design support for the East Coast Hockey (ECHL) minor league team, producing designs for their website, Jumbo-Tron and outdoor billboards, as well as social media. She credits her ability to stand out to the Jackals and others because of the handful of art classes she began taking each year after discovering a passion for graphic design in her sophomore year.
“As soon as I stepped foot into that design class I fell in love with art, which led to my student-initiated minor in digital design. Having a minor in digital design and having the skills in various Adobe design programs has helped me to stand out on campus as well as at Field Period™ sites. Being in the art program has led to a variety of different opportunities that honed my skills in not only graphic design but in a variety of different art forms,” the organizational communication major said.
Ninos too, can boast enhanced skills through his Keuka College training, having produced works in mediums that span everything from spray-painted street art, caricatures, sculpture, comics-style art and graphic design. Describing himself as “infatuated” with mixed media, Ninos has begun to focus on fantasy-themed works evocative of his artistic idols Alan Lee (illustrator of Lord of the Rings), Mary Doodles of YouTube fame, and various DC, Marvel and Wildcats comic-book artists.
“I have learned that I love capturing the element of movement, with strong lines, the essence of an organic object or the gesture of a figure drawing coming alive on the page,” Ninos said, adding that his best work often consumes eight hours or more.
Ninos said he enjoys creating art that can serve “as a strong narrative element in storytelling.” Given his love of movement, expression and emotion in art, he is pursuing further study and has applied to graduate art programs at SUNY Oswego and Alfred University.
Newcomb praised the seniors for preparing unique works reflecting different life values, beliefs, interests or personal identification with the world, and in doing so in a short two-and-a-half months time.
“Each one has a strong presence, and powerful statement built through layers of meaning,” Newcomb said. “They are leaving a strong impression on the future of the Art & Design program.”
First came the stories. A year ago, fifth-graders in the Penn Yan Elementary School classroom of Terry Test ’73 met three times for interviews with Keuka College “authors” in the introductory English course “Literature in the Wider World” to craft stories from the perspective of each child. Now, colorful images bring an extra punch to the words on each page.
The project, dubbed “Who is Penn Yan?” was the brainchild of Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Dr. Jennie Joiner. The goal was to provide both college and elementary students with a hands-on learning experience in story development and characterization.
Rather than an exercise in creative writing, the assignment emphasizes “the power of story,” Joiner said. “It’s catered to the child, and goes back to the narrative form and what it means to take someone’s story in your own hands and be responsible for it.”
This year, the collaboration took on new dimensions with the addition of an illustration component, provided by students in the book illustration course taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and design. A group of college artists were assigned to produce illustrations spanning a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.
Both the stories and illustrations came together over several weeks during the fall semester. College artists met first with each child, to discuss what they had in mind. The fifth-graders borrowed books from the library to use as examples of styles they liked. The College author teams then spent three weeks meeting with fifth-graders at the elementary school to hear how the children envisioned their stories unfolding, jotting down notes each time to take back and work into drafts in progress. College artists then collaborated with authors to determine what key story element to illustrate for each one.
According to Test, the Keuka College students made quite an impression on her class.
“To have fifth-graders see a college student sit down and write and take notes—well, this year’s class was impressed. They mentioned it after the first day and I see much better note-taking than there was before,” she said, adding that she was also seeing improvements in their writing too, particularly in response to literature.
And it’s not just the tangible improvements that have Test thrilled.
“They see that real people go to college and how it’s do-able. In talking with their authors, they realize they have to get good grades, finish high school, and they have to plan for it,” she said.
Just before Thanksgiving break, College authors brought near-finished drafts of each fifth-grader’s story to the school to read them aloud and gather any additional feedback. More than a few were waiting with bated breath. Take Elysia Robbins ‘18, for example, who teamed with “Jack” on a story about his character facing football tryouts.
“I was really nervous coming here this morning, but this is so rewarding!” Robbins said after hearing Jack rave over the results. “Coming down here is such a unique experience.”
In another corner of the room, “Tiffanie” listened to Katie Crossley ‘16 read through the story of her character’s experience fast-forwarding through life with a magic remote control.
“I kind of like the end more,” Tiffanie explained. “My character finally realized she didn’t need to live in the past. She can live in the now.”
At another table, Ian Ault ‘17, an adult student, sat with “Johnny,” reviewing a detailed tale of Johnny’s exploits as a superhero known as Lizard Ninja. As far as Ault was concerned, far more than mere fantasy happened in the tale.
“It’s a matter of taking a concept, such as good versus evil, and recreating how you view it, and with kids, they make up a story and that’s how they decide what decisions they’ll make,” Ault said. “For some, like Johnny, you create the story and the concepts, and that’s how you learn.”
Similar revelations unfolded when the artists returned to the elementary school on December 1, visiting Test’s classroom to unveil final paintings, drawings or multimedia works to each child.
“It was challenging, because it wasn’t just my fifth-grader’s vision, but it had to fit the author’s vision too,” said Courtney Knauber ’17, who illustrated two different stories of a dog named Pug-Popo for “Christy.”
According to Prof. Newcomb, creating different pieces in different styles and mediums for each child stretched her art students outside their comfort zones, and provided personal experience in working with a “client” just as they could encounter as a professional.
The sustained interaction with Keuka College students was maturing Test’s classroom in new ways too, she said.
“You had 17 ten-year-olds discussing art for 40 minutes in hushed, gallery tones,” said Test.
Back at campus, College authors made final revisions to each “Who is Penn Yan?” story, turning them in to Joiner as part of the final project for her English course. Then over winter break, artist Jesse Ninos combined all of the elements into the second volume of the “Who is Penn Yan?” collector’s book for his senior Field Period™. The finished books rolled off the press just days before Test’s entire class made a special visit to Lightner Library where the new College mascot, Kacey, waited with Joiner, Newcomb and their students to celebrate the book’s release.
Flanked by special guests from the Keuka College Executive Alumni Association, which co-sponsored the field trip for the fifth-graders to come to campus, the Wolfpack mascot gave each child a hug before handing him or her their book.
“Beautiful job, you guys,” Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told the fifth-graders as he got a first glimpse of the special edition and praised them for sharing their great ideas.
“What’s really interesting is to realize how much you as fifth-graders have taught our College students, and other way around. That’s a really important learning adventure, so thank you for being willing to join us and share it so well,” Forestell said.
Speaking above the laughter and excitement of her class as they downed cookies and punch, Test added her thanks to each Keuka College student for “the amount of time you invested into 10 year-olds.”
“We have a fifth-grade class that now loves writing and it’s an honor to say that,” Test added.
As fifth-graders and college students turned the crisp, new pages of their shared book, exchanging hugs — and autographs—praise for the project continued. Seated next to author Anna Kramer ’18, “Marley” demonstrated how the book flips open in the middle —right to her story.
“Oh, I like it! Two thumbs up!” Marley gushed.
Holding his copy of the work, Ian Ault ‘17 gestured to the schoolchildren beaming smiles.
“The book is cool, but the experience of doing it — you can’t put that on paper. This makes the college experience deeper.”
The annual spring Student Art Show at Keuka College returns next week to the Lightner Gallery and the variety and depth of creativity and expression in the pieces installed has Assistant Professor of Art Melissa Newcomb excited to share them with the public.
“I can’t wait for the students to show off what they’ve been working on in Allen Hall,” she said, referring to the campus building housing the art program classrooms and studios. “There is some really powerful work. Every year, these students are raising the bar in the quality of work they create, and it’s incredible to see what is happening in classes now that we have 20 students enrolled in the Art & Design major.”
The exhibit features students showcasing a variety of photography, illustrations, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, drawing and design created in this year’s art classes and will run from March 9 through April 12 with an artists’ reception to be held 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, March 12. Light refreshments will be served and guests will be able to browse the walls and pedestals of the Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library to hearts’ content.
If Prof. Newcomb is thrilled with the students’ work, the pride and enthusiasm from the students involved is even more palpable.
“The student show is an incredible way for students to show off their creativity, hard work, and talent, and I am always amazed when I see the artwork,” said Bridgette Fletcher ’15, who is exhibiting three portraits from her 11-part “Reflection” series, and an abstract image. Her inspiration for the series stemmed from recent campaigns about women’s perceptions of beauty and how they interpret what they see reflected in the mirror.
“I was incredibly proud of how the portraits turned out and I am honored to have them displayed in the student show,” Bridgette added.
In a different twist on reflections, one assignment in the digital photography course required students to take a self-portrait, but portray themselves in a different way than others usually see them. Art & Design major Kayla Medina ’17 took that opportunity to show sides of herself others don’t usually see.
“I decided to show my artistic and serious side, because many people know me as funny, goofy, laid back, and always smiling,” Kayla said.
Bringing others closer to the artists through their work is something that excites Lauren Esposito ’15, who is exhibiting photographs taken during the fall digital photography course.
“Creating art is such an incredible and intimate process; it allows for the individual to relax, express, create, and reflect,” said Lauren. “It’s even more incredible to see the work from others. We have so many talented students here at Keuka College and without the variety of art courses, most of that talent would be unknown.”
That principle is even more poignant for Lauren, who said art courses have introduced her to new people who have become some of her closest friends. As a senior, most of her academic hours are spent with the same few students pursuing the same degree (organizational communication), but art courses add a new dynamic, she said.
“I’ve also learned to communicate in an entirely new way through the variety of pieces I created in Foundations of Art and Design to Graphic Design to Digital Photography- which was my favorite art course,” Lauren said. Reigniting her passion for images even pushed her to conduct a photography Field Period™, she said, adding that it was the favorite of the four she has completed as a senior.
Other works from other courses, including ceramics (taught by Faith Benedict, adjunct professor of art), sculpture (taught by Sam Castner), graphic design, mixed media and drawing and painting will highlight the depths of creativity and artistic expression coming to the forefront around campus. According to Marina Kilpatrick ’16, having Prof. Newcomb select one of your pieces for the student show is always a great feeling, as is the energy generated when students, professors and other guests come together at the artists’ reception.
The show itself provides “a fantastic opportunity for art majors and minors to get to see their work displayed because it gives them that confident boost that many may need. I know that’s what it did for me,” Kayla added. “Ms. Newcomb has put a LOT of work into this show, and I know the show will be a hit. I’m so excited to see everyone’s work up and on display.”
In the digital age we live in, the Sistine Chapel isn’t farther than a quick Google search away. Photographs of the ceiling there have richer detail than ever before, information about Michelangelo is available at one’s fingertips on a multitude of websites and inside a plethora of books. But is seeing it on a screen or on a page really the same?
Not if you ask Ann Tuttle, professor of management and one of three faculty members who supervised a group Field Period™ to Florence, Venice and Rome the week after Commencement for 16 Keuka College students.
“It’s not the same to read about it as to experience it,” Tuttle said, contrasting the biweekly meetings members of the group held over months of preparation, to learn history, art, culture, and language with the 10 days the group spent in Italy itself.
“Seeing the things we’d learned about for ourselves was so much better and more meaningful than I could have imagined. Immersion in a culture is fulfilling and moving, it helps you to understand there is more out there than what we know,” Tuttle said.
Students and faculty who experienced the wonders of Italy together will share their experiences Monday, Sept. 29 from 5-9 p.m. at the North Education Conference Center, and will also serve refreshments. All members of the college community are invited to come and see the culmination of the trip, much of which was coordinated through Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Denise Love. Last year, Love coordinated a group Field Period™ to Vienna, Prague and the Slovakian cities of Nitra and Bratislava along with Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, assistant professor of education, and Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. Newcomb returned for this year’s trip, and the group also welcomed Dr. Jean Wannall, professor of occupational therapy, and her husband, Nathan Wannall, who helped serve as group Field Period™ leaders too.
Following the pattern set last year, students again kept online journals and blogs detailing their personal reflections in words and photographs.
“I imagined Michelangelo spending all of his time in there, working on the perfect detail,” wrote Kelsey Harmer ‘15, after visiting the Sistine Chapel. “At first I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures, but it made me appreciate the artwork so much more.”
For her part, Newcomb said she was “overtaken with emotion looking at a masterpiece I had only seen in a photograph or video. I could have stayed there all day.”
The trip was educational for her too, even as a professor, she said, especially since she has always dreamed about seeing Rome after studying so much art history.
“I can now say I have seen real masterpieces. I can share the experience and passion with my students. I can reach out to students in a different way now that I have walked through Italy. Passion will definitely be present in the classroom,” she explained.
The group was able to experience making real Italian pasta, riding on gondolas in Venice, visiting Pompeii, and enjoying the beautiful waters surrounding Capri. Of course, some experiences don’t always go according to plan. For example, authentic Italian cuisine is entirely different from the Italian-American food most of the students were expecting, as Brittany Gleason ’15 discovered at an Italian restaurant where, under pressure, she ordered pizza with sausage on it.
“A few minutes later they brought out a large pizza with sliced hot dogs on it. So, today I also learned that ‘sausage’ here means our hot dogs,” Gleason wrote.
Guided daily by an Italian native named Mario, both students and chaperones wrote about their newfound love for gelato, Italy’s slightly more intense version of ice cream. While in the city of San Gimignano, the group was able to get gelato at the famous Gelateria di Piazza, which many consider the best in the world.
According to Kayla Hall ’15, they weren’t kidding.
“I thought the other places were good,” Hall wrote. “Did you know that the best way to tell if a gelato is of good quality is to hang it upside down? If it falls off you have a lame gelato, but if it stays on, it is one of the good ones. This one stayed on!”
In addition to its rich history of food and art, Italy is also known for its considerable architectural achievements, dating back to the ruins of ancient Rome. Perhaps best-known is the four-level Coliseum, or Flavian Theater. Built of concrete and stone, the stadium was used for animal fights, staged sea battles, and the famous gladiator matches.
“When you look at the Coliseum today the floor is removed, so you are able to see where the slaves were kept before they came up for battle,” wrote Jenna Bird ’15. “This was pretty surreal to experience because we were able to see exactly where slaves were kept essentially before they were sent to their deaths.”
“Pictures don’t do any place justice, especially when it comes to the scale of architecture,” described Newcomb. “It’s overwhelming but wonderful at the same time. It makes you really appreciate the experience of how something so massive and beautiful was created, how all the tiny details were created by hand. Each part tells a story, and you could study it for days.”
“Even though we saw so much and maximized our time, there could never be enough time,” Tuttle said, “It made me want to go back, to see more someday.”
“I want to say thank you to Keuka College and all of those that have supported group Field Period™, because it is a life-changing and life- enhancing experience,” Tuttle said.
Additional students who participated in the group Field Period™ included Alyssa Ange, Shawnee Brown, Amber Callahan, Marina Kilpatrick, Brittany Kuhn, Brianna Longwell, Brooke Reynolds, Anna Tomasso, Haley Tuttle, Justin Merrill, Lakwan Alleyne-Hall and Ian Wentzel.