Posed in front of one of her large-scale oil paintings, artist Marie Hines Cowan grins: “Art is what I am,” she says. “It is the definition of me, artist.” Cowan’s portrait and frank self-assessment is part of “Artists of NRCA,” a project that combines portraits by photographer Rodney Bedsole with quotes gathered by Melissa Panszi Riebe to present a cross section of the creative people who make up NRCA’s membership.
Similar to “Humans of New York” -- the popular blog that features “man on the street” style portraits of New Yorkers paired with captions that offer a glimpse into their lives – Artists of NRCA captures seven New Rochelle Council on the Arts members in their studios and offices, talking about why art is important to them. Designed as part of NRCA’s March membership drive, the campaign will appear daily on Facebook and Twitter beginning February 14th, highlighting insights from Marie Hines Cowan as well as 3-D pop artist Charles Fazzino, printmaker David Krinick, photographer and artist Susan Nagib, former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company member Donna Sanders, graphic designer and artist Jesse Sanchez, and dancer Christine Coleman.
“We’re kicking this off on Valentine’s Day as a sort of love letter to the arts,” says Theresa Kump Leghorn, President of NRCA. “We hope it will give people a window into the vibrant arts community that exists in New Rochelle and also remind them about the importance of the arts in all of our lives, and the need to support the arts.”
“The magic of this project was how authentic and passionate all these artists were,” says Melissa Panszi Riebe. She says that as she interviewed each artist she uncovered a central theme for all of them: “It was clear that these artists all had the same passion and belief in the importance of art in their lives and in the community they live in.”
“I always thought I would be an artist because that is all that I knew,” Fazzino told Riebe. “Life would be pretty sad if we didn’t have art.”
“Humans of New York” began in 2010 and soon grew into a phenomenon: The HONY blog at http://www.humansofnewyork.com now has over 20 million followers and a worldwide audience. While NRCA doesn’t expect to add millions of Facebook followers the organization does hope to create awareness about its mission – supporting the fine and performing arts in New Rochelle -- and about the importance of the arts in everybody’s lives. To see the entire campaign visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/newrochellearts.org/ or Twitter @NewRochelleArts. For more information about NRCA membership visit www.newrochellearts.org.
Melissa Panszi Riebe is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has a Masters in Nonprofit Management, and she says she drew on her social work skills to interview the artists for this project. In her work with non-profits Melissa helps create relationships with donors and supporters through story-telling and relationship building. She is currently a NRCA board member and lives with her family in New Rochelle where she is the Director of Community and Donor Relations for the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation.
Rodney Bedsole is a professional photographer who comfortably settled four years ago into New Rochelle, where he found many like-minded artists through the New Rochelle Council on the Arts. By then, Rodney had already studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, followed by cooking with several top chefs in the City. From there, he applied his food experience and his growing knowledge gained from serious study of photography to launch a career in food photography. He especially loves photographing the melding of people, food, and culture. Rodney’s main mission is to provide restaurants, magazines, and cookbooks with tempting mouth-watering images. You can view his work at http://rodneybedsole.com.