Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?
What we need always, and now more than ever, is love,” states artist and Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) alumnus Vaughn Spann, explaining the inspiration behind his mural, Indivisible, one of several works of art currently featured in the Engelhard Hall Exhibitions. On Thursday, October 20, the Paul Robeson Galleries hosted a reception to celebrate Indivisible and the creations of other artists displayed on the first floor of Engelhard Hall at RU-N.
Commissioned by RU-N’s Office of Admissions, Indivisible is a physical manifestation of Spann’s love, sparked by his recent attainment of a few life milestones. Within a relatively compressed timeframe, he married his college sweetheart, witnessed the birth of his first daughter, and matriculated at the Yale School of Art at Yale University. “[Through Indivisible,] I wanted to find a way to give visual meaning to all of these wonderful life events while paying homage to the school that helped me establish a foundation for my future,” Spann further explains.
A native of Orange, New Jersey, the pulse and verve of Spann’s urban experience come to life in his artwork. Spann chose to attend RU-N to remain immersed in a thriving metropolis and relish all it had to offer. To Spann, RU-N’s intrinsic value – its diversity, approachable and esteemed professors, accessibility to New York City, and overall great reputation, makes it a hidden gem within the city of Newark and state of New Jersey.
As a freshman lacking concrete direction as to course of study, Spann found a mentor in the late painter and RU-N professor, Denyse Thomasos. Thomasos engaged in welcoming and inspiring conversations with him about life, art, and ambition. While Spann found her unexpected death in 2012 overwhelming, he eventually used her compassion and indelible words of encouragement to motivate him to make better and more ambitious paintings. Spann ultimately graduated from RU-N’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2014 with a bachelor of fine arts degree and received the Department of Art, Culture, and Media’s highest honor, the Award for Distinguished Achievement in Art.
After he obtains his master of fine arts degree from Yale in 2018, Spann plans to secure representation by a gallery as well as continue to feature his work in group shows. He remains focused on enriching his craft and optimistic about his career as an artist.
When asked what he would say today to an aspiring student and artist at RU-N, Spann shares, “It’s easy to get lost, especially after graduation. But don’t give up on your dream; find a way to make it happen. If one keeps pushing, doors will open.” Possessing a strong belief in mentoring, Spann welcomes the opportunity to advise upcoming artists who share his passion for art.
Photo courtesy of The Newark Arts Photo Documentary Project: Portraits of Contemporary Artists in Newark, New Jersey