Alumni Art Panel Hosted at WPU

Ben Shahn Hall, October 16, 2017


Albert Bustos

From left to right: Merrill Crowell, Jamal Hall, Diana Puglisi, Virginia Schaffer Block, Sean Tulner, Tim Walsh

Albert Bustos, Art Director

On October 16, an art panel of William Paterson University art major alumni took place at the South Gallery in the Ben Shahn Hall. These were Bachelors and Masters of Fine Arts and in Art Education. They spoke to both students and faculty. The event was from 6:00 – 8:00pm. There was a networking mixer after the panel where students, faculty and the group of alumni mingled and exchanged information for networking, inquires, and advice purposes.

The artist panel alumni included Merrill Crowell, Jamal Hall, Diana Puglisi, Virginia Schaffer Block, Sean Tulner, and Tim Walsh.

Merrill Crowell has worked as a graphic designer on projects ranging from advertising design and production. She’s worked with large shopping malls to produce exhibitions of graphics and illustrations for museums and trade shows. In addition, she has taught 2D design and graphic delineation here at WPU.

As the Principle of Perspective, she managed projects and designs for a major exhibition in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. entitled Creating French Culture. She’s designed brochures, magazine advertisements, illustrations, layouts, catalogs, pamphlets, directories, posters and direct mail promotions for: Delandry Associates, Ltd.; NJ Arthritis Foundation, Research & Communication Associates; Ridgewood Racquet Club; National Analyst Training Corporation; American Journal; Interdiscipline Consultants Inc.; Crib and Teen City; Canalli Furniture; Cogers Sugar House; Community Arts Association; RTDH Inc.; and WA Financial Services among others.

Crowell has designed over 175 websites for various clients. She created and maintained the website for the Public Information Assistant of East Ramapo Central School District in Spring Valley, NY. She’s also worked with Concepts Plus in Wayne, NJ and Pico International (Taiwan), Passaic NJ.

She is an active volunteer including teaching art classes on a weekly basis for the Multiple Handicapped Center of the Wayne Board of Education. Her hobbies include painting, photography, designing, and teaching needlepoint. She’s won many awards and was accepted into numerous national juried shows.

Jamal Hall graduated from WPU in 1999 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts. He was born in Irvington, NJ. He has worked and directed various films, music videos, and documentaries throughout the country. His work has been screened in various film festivals from Hollywood to the Cannes Film Festival. He’s worked with musical artists and actors such as Fetty Wop, Shaquille O’ Neale, Bill Duke, and Clifton Powell.

Hall created the app and production company, HallMills Network along with Gemar Mills and Cornelius Whitaker to help build a strong foundation for the future of the digital visual market.

The next art panelist was Diana Puglisi who graduated in 2011 with a BFA in painting and drawing. She was born in Brooklyn, NY. She received a 2017 Fellowship in Sculpture from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. In 2016, she received an MFA in visual art from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She holds a certificate in studio art from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Post-Baccalaureate Program.

Puglisi has exhibited in the US at venues including subSamson, Boston, MA; The Front Space, Rollinsford, NH; Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ; The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. She has forthcoming three-person exhibition at SOIL Gallery in Seattle, WA in April 2018. She currently resides and creates in NJ.

Block graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in Art education and holds an M.A. in Visual Arts from WPU. She also worked as a graduate assistant in the Fine Arts Department. She’s worked as an art educator, package and logo designer, and a director of incentive marketing.

Block has a lot of experience and her credentials are long. Most notable of her experience is being one of the five original co-founders of Studio Montclair Inc. and she was the first president from 1997-2003. Currently she is serving as a recording secretary to the Advisory Board of George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University. Her community involvement was working with Essex County Mental Health Association in 1998 to organize and participate in “The Mask Project.” In 2004 – 2005 she was Co-Chair of the Montclair Art Museum’s annual Fine Arts Auctions.

She’s been painting professionally since 1979 and had numerous solo shows. She’s been included in over 75 invitational group exhibitions throughout New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C. and the Midwest. Block’s work has also traveled to exhibitions in Athens, Greece in 1996 and Graz, Australia in 2003. Her work is included in hundreds of corporate and private collections throughout the east coast and the mid-west. She’s had a long and varied art career.

Sean Tulner, a WPU alumni, is a sculptor and float technician for Macys’ Parade Studio. As a WPU student, he was a recipient of the Creative Excellence in Fine Arts Award and the Wildon Award. Tulner graduated with a magna cum laude honors and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spring of 2014. He focused on digital and traditional sculpture. With the help of Professor Michael Rees, Tulner joined a residency program where he used robotics to carve marble in Tuscany, Italy. Before his career with Macys he worked on set productions for feature films and plays.

Tim Walsh graduated in 2005. He’s an award-winning graphic designer, web designer, and artist based in Toms River, NJ.

Since attending WPU (2000 – 2005), Walsh opened his own design company called Eleven Nine Studios. He helps create content strategies using multiple platforms for small to large businesses. In the last few years, Walsh has used his skills to create a comic book called “A Daze Work,” that is now signed to Apex Comics. He had great opportunities like sitting on stages along with legends like Stan Lee and the co-creator of Deadpool among others.

A student asked Puglisi what was the best thing William Paterson gave to her. Her response was the faculty and their inspiration. She mentioned Professor James Brown, Professor Deborah Frizzell, and Professor Charles Magistro.

Puglisi said, “There’s still a ton of professors here that I still have a relationship with today. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for them and their feedback.” She brought up Professor James Brown specifically, saying, “I had him for all three of my foundation classes and I was drowning in work and I just hated it. From that point on I took it for anything I could take it for,” she said. “He pushed me, he was honest and the same thing with Professor Magistro and Professor Frizzell. Professor Brown drilled a lot of the visual language in me and that really taught me a lot and it stayed with me up until grad school where I knew I could talk about art through that lens confidently.”

They spoke about the importance of an honest critique and how the art society can be really sensitive. Being blunt and not just saying, “it looks nice” when an artist asks for an opinion or feedback on their work is much more beneficial to the artist than just being afraid to hurt their feelings.

Walsh mentioned the Power Art Center and the astounding technology that students now have at their disposal. Many of the panelists stated they wish they had access to the technology now available at WPU. One panelist said she would use it as an aid on her work as an extension to the hands-on way of doing things.

Concerning goals, Hall said he was doing too much of everything. Graphic design, music, radio, etc. He said, “I sat down one day and decided to focus on one goal and I was sticking to that. The greatest thing about sticking to that one goal, which was film making, entailed everything I was doing from graphic design to music. Focus on that one thing you are good at.”

The panelists advised at being diligent in your art career. Networking using social media. Send a message to an artist that you admire. Meet up with them at their shows and connect with them. No one will be there to tell you what to do after you graduate. Set your own deadlines. Apply to as many grants as you can. Give yourself the time to work on your art. Get involved in art events.

Walsh said when you start working things will be different. He said, “Have fun, take risks, talk with your friends and collaborate with them. I wish I had taken more risks in some of my art when I was in school. I played it safe and kept it where I was good, but I never took that big risk.

Don’t focus so much on technology because once you do, you will forget to draw with a pencil. I am notebook crazy. I have a notebook in my pocket, by my bed, in my living room and every other room I have. I always jot down and sketch things that come to my head. So, if you have that opportunity, sketch and have fun and don’t lose sight of that.”

Tulner advised to branch out, network, attend gallery shows and to try get your work into those gallery shows while you’re still in school. He said, “You have that opportunity now to start honing your ideas. Know where you want to go in the next few years and those connections that you will make could be your next career. You can find an internship, be an assistant, or they might just take you in full-time. I know it’s hard because you guys have your thesis soon, but try and reach high and get out there.”

Block said, “You can’t put all your faith in a retail gallery. I just now reinvented myself and I’m going into non-profit spaces. Show people what you are doing through social media. You have to develop your vernacular in your work and you have to be articulate to be able to explain your work when you’re asked.”

Puglisi advised the students to get a studio space where you’re able to make your art. “You need your space and your house is ok but you need a space for yourself to work. Look at the different ways artists have studios now. They’re in storage units, renting out garages from people and renting studio spaces, and keep your ties with the faculty.”

“Never stop being an artist. Always try to learn something new. Don’t get too comfortable and keep learning,” said Hall.

Crowell said to have fun making art. Take a time out for yourself from making money and just have fun.