By Grace Berry
The second floor of Herbert P. Blake Hall is the hidden gem of Springfield College. Tucked away nearing the back part of campus, the Visual and Performing Arts department comes to life with all types of art.
All the way in the back corner, the William Blizard Gallery showcases extraordinary pieces from two former faculty members: William Blizard himself and Ron Maggio.
The walls of the gallery are adorned with Blizard’s abstract painting of fiery orange and red, others of tropic green swipes of the paintbrush. Pictures of African-American blues artists grace the other end of the gallery with a description made by Blizard saying, “The Blues Speaks to the Soul of America.” On the other wall, Maggio has his collection of drawings inspired by Dante’s Inferno with roses that he dedicates to his mother.
Maggio, Faculty Emeritus of the Visual and Performing Arts, was an arts professor at Springfield College for 32 years. Despite retiring last year, Maggio still comes back to share his wisdom and passion for the arts.
“It was never a job for me. Just to see in my classes how it impacted the students, how it changed them. We offer the students another window in which to see the world, view the world, understand the world.”
Historically, Springfield College has been known for its sports achievements, but 55 years ago, the VAPA department sought to change that. The Humanics philosophy is all about “spirit, mind, and body,” but this wasn’t being completely satisfied until 1962 when the arts were brought to campus.
“ VAPA really exemplifies the Humanics philosophy. It’s working with people, service with others, we do all those things. We talk about leadership skills, problem solving skills, all those things you learn in the arts,” explained Maggio.
While the department is celebrating its many achievements from the past five and a half decades, they also are reflecting on the struggles that led to their successes. When the new campus union was being built in 2010, the VAPA department lost many assets such as music rooms, a dance studio, and a black box theatre. Also, because the department is located near the end of campus, not a lot of people tend to come through to visit the Gallery, or explore other artwork. Although the arts may have lost quite a few spaces, they never seem to lose their passion.
With clear fervor in his voice, Maggio explains that “because we lost those things, we haven’t lost our ability to do our very best. Whatever we do it’s 110 percent, we won’t give up. We’re not going to give up.”
Another VAPA faculty member who exemplifies clear passion for her work is the Director of Art Therapy/Counseling and Art Education, Simone Alter-Muri. In the past, there has typically been an ongoing struggle between the arts and athletics; however, Alter-Muri doesn’t see why there has to be such a battle between the two.
“The arts teach what no other program teaches. We teach creativity, imagination, eye hand coordination, motor skills, creative problem solving. Because sports is such an economic entity they do not get asked why is athletics important. The arts have been important since the beginning of mankind as the first vehicles for communication.”
Even new students can identify the struggle the arts department can have in a school so enthralled with sports. Kathryn Nafis, a freshman Physical Therapy major, was unsure if she could continue her passion for the arts when coming to Springfield, but ended up finding her niche within the VAPA department as an Art Therapy minor.
“ I wasn’t too sure what the options were because you don’t know it as an art school. However, I found a lot of other people who were doing other sports and science majors who are also doing art in addition. It just didn’t occur to me until I heard other people who were doing it.”
Even though the arts are continuously growing on campus, there are still some challenges the department has to face. Sometimes the spaces they are given aren’t big enough, the word about the programs of study they have to offer isn’t advertised as much, or even the marketing of events isn’t well produced.
“I think that if the administrators did the same thing I did and interviewed some people who have been involved in the arts here, the non-art majors, I think they would find out some really interesting things,” Maggio expressed.
In the month of April, there will be many showcases of the arts all around campus. This past weekend, the theatrical performance of Becky’s New Car directed by Martin Shell was presented on the Fuller Arts Stage. From April 17-28, another art show will be presented in the Blizard Gallery entitled “Untitled: Number 10.” The annual spring concert will take place in the Townhouse Conference Room on April 18 at 7:30 featuring musicians from the Springfield College Band and the Springfield College Community Chorus. There will also be the Springfield College Dancer’s annual presentation on April 21 at 8 p.m., as well as April 22-23 at 2 p.m. at the Fuller Arts Center.
To join the celebrations of the many successes of the Visual and Performing Arts department, and to view the Retrospective art collection at the Blizard Gallery, there will be a reception in the Gallery on Friday, April 7 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.