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More to This than Just Making Stuff
Senior Art major Dylan DeLuca arrived at Radford in Fall of 2020, facing the uncertainty of going to college in the midst of a pandemic like so many others across the country. There were even more unknowns than usual for college students entering the world of higher education.
He jokes about the timing of it all. “An amazing time to go to college,” he said jovially.
But DeLuca also knew he wanted to go to college, and being good at art, he looked for places that could help him develop that were different from where he’d grown up in Chesapeake. The mountains were calling, it would seem.
“I thought, why don’t I try something totally different?” DeLuca explained. “And Radford was that place.”
When he arrived for a visit, the personality of the school made an impact on him.
“There were a lot of people talking to each other and there was a community, which I didn’t really have at home, so I really wanted to be here.”
Of course, there was even more change ahead. When DeLuca first arrived, the Porterfield art building was still up, but not for long. It was taken down to make room for the new Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity, which will be completed for Fall of 2024—after he graduates.
However, the Art Department carved out a new space in the former printing office, creating an artistic oasis just a few blocks off campus.
DeLuca's student studio is in the Grove Avenue facility. There, he has a sizable corner of a large room to create and grow artistically.
“I was good at art, but I had to test my skills and challenge myself. To get more conceptual with things,” he said. “That was a big deal for me.”
Evidence of that can be seen on the studio walls surrounding his worktable. No single style or color dominates the smattering of work around him.
This exploration and experimentation process has been critical for DeLuca.
He says that when he arrived, he only knew how to put images on paper but had no clear sense of what artists really do or how they evolve or could make a living.
“Once I got here, I had all these opportunities and I found out there is a lifestyle to art,” DeLuca said, splashing his fingers out from his head like an explosion.
“Suddenly, there is a lot more to this than just making stuff.”
DeLuca says he’s learned how to take the sense of community he found at Radford and translate that into wider and wider circles.
He’s also had practical opportunities, like learning how to hang a gallery exhibition. He recently helped hang the Paul Frets Autumn Retrospective exhibition in the Covington Center with Professor Brent Webb.
Webb, DeLuca said, taught him a valuable lesson about presence in the community.
“You gotta be there,” he said.
“You have to go around to shows, meet people and make friends. Be around art and artists.”
Overall, DeLuca considers himself a painter, but prior to coming to Radford, he’d never worked with oils. In his sophomore year, he got to try his hand.
“It was a wonderful experience to move the colors around, to just apply force behind the paint and make it move,” he said. “It was just something I didn’t get with graphite or acrylics. Oil was just so powerful.”
DeLuca says he likes to have “velocity” and movement in his art, but he says he likes to have grounding elements in his work simultaneously.
Additionally, DeLuca is also working more and more toward conceptual art to get beyond what might be a merely good idea and into a larger intellectual framework.
Reading is an important part of that journey. Recently, he found himself diving into the works of Charles Bukowski and Kurt Vonnegut, for example.
He’s also been writing poetry, which he sees as a natural part of his journey as a visual artist.
“I’d love to see how far my reaches go,” DeLuca said.
And he’s exploring philosophy. DeLuca has drawn inspiration from the Japanese warrior and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi and his Book of Five Rings.
“One of the things he says is, ‘No matter where I am walking, I am always walking like I am on the battlefield,'” DeLuca explained.
DeLuca interprets this as philosophy for any discipline, dedicating one’s life to a practice and seeing it through.
“I walk around in the studio like I walk around everywhere else,” he says.
“That’s how I am.”