THIS LIFELONG ARTIST AND TEACHER SHARES HIS VISION WITH APPRECIATIVE AUDIENCES, GALLERY VISITORS, AND STUDENTS
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI PHOTOS BY PATTY PIXELS
David Levy’s mind is a busy place, filled with patterns in art, architecture, history, and life. He was an artist by 15. He’d planned to become an architect, but turned to Art History in college, and spent over 20 years teaching a combination of those disciplines. A docent as well as co-president and exhibitor at Monmouth County’s Guild of Creative Art, he spends hours weekly bringing the joy of creation to students.
The Shrewsbury home he shares with his wife, Tina, a speech pathologist, also serves as gallery space its walls and halls bedecked with his artwork, including paintings and photographs of the bridges and classic automobiles he loves, as well as three-dimensional optical pieces.
“My subjects inspire me because their designs offer the possibility of combining the real with the abstract,” Levy said. “For my bridge paintings, I have built a small-scale model to better visualize unusual viewpoints. Before a fixing colored shapes and lines to a background, I will alter their positions, colors, and size, plotting each until I have achieved the balance I desire.”
As a teen, Levy was inspired by exhibits at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1972 with a major in Fine Arts after moving from Architecture/Urban Planning to Art History and Studio Art. That’s when he began to establish a personal style he calls “Engineered Abstraction,” which was the title of an exhibit he mounted with a friend in Pennsylvania in 2013.
After receiving an M.A. in Art History from Rutgers University, he intended to earn a doctorate in Italian Renaissance Art and secure a tenured university teaching position, but with a dissertation in progress and no monetary support, he left Rutgers and accepted a job as a Gifted and Talented teacher in a public elementary school. His new mission became developing and teaching a program for gifted children while gaining certification in Elementary and Arts Education.
Life took another turn when Levy decided to teach behaviorally challenged and special needs kids in 1990, and went on to do that for 22 years at CPC Behavioral Healthcare. His enthusiasm is palpable when he describes leading projects involving painting, sculpture, and architecture (including building stick models of bridges) to inspire these students, strengthen creative and critical thinking, and, as he put it, “demonstrate that learning is empowering and fun.”
“I was actually able to engage them,” Levy related. “These kids thought they were failures. They liked hands-on projects because they could learn on the spot. As an enrichment teacher, I worked across all subjects, but always came back to art. Good process, good product.”
He received grants and teaching and research fellowships, and was named 1994 New Jersey’s Educator of the Year by the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped. In 1997, he received the Outstanding Educator Award from Very Special Arts New Jersey as well as the Governor’s Award in Arts Education. Two years later, he was named Educator of the Year by the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children.
Levy continues to exhibit at “The Guild,” a member of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts and the Monmouth County Arts Council currently celebrating its 60th anniversary. Over the years, he has exhibited in Middletown, New York, Northern Virginia Community College, the Ocean County, New Jersey Artists’ Guild, and elsewhere.
Additionally, Levy has worked with and lectured for a wide variety of groups, including the Boy Scouts, the American Association of University Women, the Philanthropic Educators Organization, groups from adult communities, adults with autism or developmental limitations, and those with cognitive and/or memory impairments.
“I love the purity of geometric forms crisp and elegant lines, bold colors, and the visual record of brushstroke,” he said. “Line, shape, color, and texture have meanings. In synthesizing these elements, I wish to visually please, provoke, and, on occasion perplex my audience while always engaging it. I want my paintings to provide a kind of visual aerobics for viewers’ eyes. Most of all, I hope to impart the passion I feel for my subject, and the joy and fun of examining and reexamining a painting.”
The Guild of Creative Art / 620 Broad Street, Shrewsbury 732.741.1441 /