The Art of Connection

Alumni Weekend class of 1989 art exhibition

Goodyear exhibition spotlights community, creatives in class of '89

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

The class of 1989 was looking toward a pleasant and traditional Alumni Weekend gathering on Morgan Rocks when Bruce Rychlik ’89 floated an artful idea. His classmates had just completed a phenomenal spring fundraising effort. Why not build on that momentum and create an uncommon 35th reunion as well?

Fellow reunion-committee members agreed. And a hybrid alumni art show and reunion was born.

A thrilling proposal

The idea for an art-infused reunion had been brewing for some time, says Rychlik, an Alumni Council officer and recipient of Dickinson’s 2019 Outstanding Reunion Volunteer Award. After attending an on-campus exhibition by painter and art educator Mike Weiss ’89 several years back, Rychlik was delighted to discover Laura Petrovich-Cheney ‘89’s work at the New England Quilt Museum and to learn that fellow classmate Jenn Johnson was devoting more time to painting. Fellow committee members recommended the work of classmates Sungmin Kim Bobyak, Brad Heckman and George Staib.

Many, but not all, were art majors at Dickinson. Committee members invited each of them to take part.

“I was thrilled to pieces,” said Johnson, who promptly traveled to Carlisle to drop off her work in person, excited by the prospect of her first gallery show.

The reunion was originally conceived as a pop-up affair, with works displayed on easels. But at the invitation of Professor of Studio Art Anthony Cervino, it evolved into something more ambitious. Working with the artists remotely, Cervino designed the gallery flow and hung the pieces. And as the days ticked off to Alumni Weekend, the buzz on the class’s Facebook page grew.

Energy and connection

Reunion attendees were treated to paintings and prints by Bobyak, Heckman, Johnson and Weiss; sculpture by Petrovich-Cheney; and video screenings of several of Staib’s dance productions. WDCV alumnus and current DJ volunteer Joe George '89 provided the music.

“I always like to match the energy of the visual artist or event to the music selections,” said George, who balanced his ‘80s-dominant mix with other fare, mixing the music live to capture a spirit of chance.

The exhibition will remain on display through September, and it will feature music from George’s reunion playlist. Rychlik and fellow class leaders are considering a follow-up virtual reunion highlighting work of additional classmates they learned about late in the planning process, who were not part of this show.

The beauty of gatherings like these, said Rychlik, is not only that they offer a chance to cheer on fellow Dickinsonians and perhaps learn something new. They also give classmates something fresh and inspiring to talk about. That encourages them to mingle not only with longtime friends but also with Dickinsonians they may not have known well as students, promoting wider and deeper connections for everyone.

For the featured artists like Staib, it was a deeply moving experience. 

“It meant a lot to be seen and recognized for the work I’ve been doing since graduating from Dickinson. It really was affirming,” says Staib, a professor at Emory University and artistic director of a professional dance company in Atlanta who was involved with dance and theatre as an undergrad. “I can’t help but feel enormous pride to be part of an institution that celebrates and upholds the values of the arts.”


Published June 7, 2024