Like many CNU students, Nick Dease ('12) was looking for a small college close to home. The Mathews, Virginia native has long had an interest in philosophy and a talent for art, and the versatility of CNU’s art curriculum allowed him to pursue both and meld them in ways that sparked his creativity to new levels.While at Christopher Newport Nick completed a series of paintings on myth inspired by his interest in existentialism. “The philosophies of Camus, Nietzsche and Sartre have always interested me, and I felt that they lent themselves to visual illustration. I chose ancient Greek myth as my vehicle because the stories are memorable, universal and dramatic,” he says. With the help of Assistant Professor Christi Harris, Nick secured a grant from the Undergraduate/Graduate Research Committee to fund his myth series. “Like any great mentor, Professor Harris always pushed me to go further with my work. She always supported my ideas and made sure my art was constantly improving,” he says.
The grant provided Dease with much-needed cash to buy supplies and framing materials, and covered travel expenses for research into the subject matter at the heart of his paintings. The efforts paid off, as he was able to complete the paintings as well as gain exposure to the world of grant funding, which has served him well as he advances in his career in the arts. “Nick was a serious student, who both listened to advice and did his own thing,” Harris says. “I can't wait to see how his work develops and am proud of what he has accomplished,” Harris says.
Dease showed the myth series in the Ferguson Center’s Alexick Student Gallery, which provided a source of feedback he used to better understand the audience’s viewpoint and grow as an artist. The process of putting the show together was a pivotal learning experience when coupled with the feedback CNU’s dedicated arts faculty provided in portfolio reviews, a process intended to ensure students are continually challenged to develop their talents. “This type of service is rare at universities,” he says. “It was great to see the faculty so dedicated to improving our work.”
Apart from his classroom and studio labors, Dease was an intern at the Falk Gallery of Art in the Ferguson Center, and a teacher’s assistant for Dr. Belle Pendleton’s art history class. He assisted during class and through preparatory work like finding and compiling images for use in classroom discussions. Working in this capacity provided Nick with a wealth of professional experience that continues to serve him. He was also an avid participant in the Philosophy Department’s “Film and Philosophy” nights, which include a showing and discussion of the themes portrayed in the film.
After graduating from CNU, Dease enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Digital Art at the Pratt Institute in New York. “CNU gave me the foundation to further explore my interests,” he says. He has exhibited works in Chicago and New York, and has also held several studio internships with resident artists in New York. He hopes to teach digital art at the collegiate level upon completion of his studies. --Brian McGuire