By Mellany Armstrong
Moore College of Art & Design honored Susan Sommer '72 and Dale Najarian '88 as the 2019 Distinguished Alumni during Spring Reunion weekend June 7 to 9.
"It was an absolutely wonderful four years, from 1968 to 1972, during which time my mind was opened to so many aspects of art making," Sommer said. "This education became part of a foundation of art principles that I have continued to employ in my practice until now."
"Being back on campus makes me realize how much Moore really prepared me. Really!" Najarian said. "Not only did Moore prepare me for a great career in the arts with a fine art foundation and a business art major, but it prepared me for a life of art."
Sommer and Najarian were presented with a pin that is an interpretation of an artist's palette, inspired by Moore's original graduation pin of 1885. This year's piece of jewelry was designed by faculty member and jewelry artist Kimberly Voigt.
As soon as she graduated from Moore, Sommer set herself up in a studio in New York City and began painting and studying with jazz musician and philosopher Bob Bianco, whose teaching derived from Joseph Schillinger’s remarkable volume The Mathematical Basis of the Arts. This philosophy still underpins her assumptions, and although she recognizes that artistic decisions have to be made intuitively, she insists that only a mathematically correct painting can be successful. After almost a decade in the city, Sommer embarked upon what has been the most enduring and signiﬁcant inﬂuence on her work, living close to nature. She has had a home in the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains for 35 years and happily admits that her work is shot through with her daily experience of the sights and sounds of the natural world.
Najarian received her BFA from Moore and worked for over fifteen years as a graphic designer and art director at various advertising agencies in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. She is an advocate and passionate about giving back to nonprofits in her community. She currently serves on the Oversight Committee of the Artist Collective of Westport. She is project manager for #UNLOADusa.org, using the arts to drive the conversation about ending gun violence in America. She is an active member of the Greenwich Arts Council and the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. She served on the Executive and General Board at the Westport Arts Center from 2008-2016, and sat on their Visual Arts and Education Committees while volunteering as a teaching artist at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center. Najarian paints in her studio in Southern Connecticut and shows her work in curated gallery exhibitions and juried shows.
Since 1995, the Distinguished Alumni Award has recognized alumni who have achieved significant professional accomplishments, participated in civic and service groups for the betterment of the community and have helped to advance the mission of the College. In 2008, Charm Sticks, a sculpture conceived and created by Marilyn Keating ’74 and Debra Sachs ’75, was installed at Moore as an enduring tribute to these outstanding women. Metal leaves with the names of Sommer and Najarian will be added to the sculpture.
The ceremony was followed by the opening reception for the 2019 Alumni Exhibition in the Goldie Paley Gallery, on view through August 10. Weatherscape by Debra Sachs '75 was selected by the Alumni Visual Arts Committee as Best in Show, and a collection of three pieces by Carleen Zimbalatti '78, On the Circle 1, On the Square 20, On the Square 21, was selected as Juror's Best in Show. Other artists in the juried exhibition are: Jennifer Knapp Bohn '89, Diana Clauss '78, Alicia Cohen '84, Jean Fontaine '07, Aimee Gilmore '13, MaryAnne Ismael '80, Liz Koval '18, Megan Lawlor '82, Wendy Liss '84, Janice Merendino '74, Dale Najarian '88, Terri Saulin '92, Kathleen Shaver '83, Susan Sommer '72, Elizabeth Stricker '15, Angela Victor-McGuffin '99 and Merle Weismer '74.
Highlights of the reunion weekend included an art educators happy hour, a drawing workshop by Janice Mendecino and a leather clutch-making workshop by Lisa Ditty '91. Alumni also enjoyed a presentation of Moore's historic costume collection by Jane Young Likens '66, Ellen Forbes Burnie and Riley High '19.