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Connecting the Dots

Tim Murphy’s interdisciplinary approach, which bridges advertising, art making, design, marketing, teaching, and user experience, has taken him on a circuitous career path. Since graduating from MassArt in 1988, he has served in various roles, including owner & principal in an advertising agency, creative director, user experience designer, college professor, gallery artist, marketing specialist, and his current position as Global User Experience Manager–Global eCommerce at the LEGO Group, in Enfield, Connecticut.

In describing his time as a student at MassArt and the impact it had on his creative development, Tim referred to himself a hunter/gatherer who wanted to get the most he could out of his experience at the college.


Stephanie Custance '08 and Brittany Molloy

Stephanie Custance '08

On a recent visit to Germany, Alumni Relations Coordinator Brittany Molloy spent some time catching-up with fibers and art history alumna Stephanie Custance '08, so she was able to fill us in on her life after MassArt.

Upon graduating from the college, Stephanie was immediately drawn to the vibrant cultural life of Berlin. After completing a two-month residency at Takt Kunstprojektraum, she decided to remain in the city. Currently, she maintains a studio in the European Creative City (ECC), a creative enclave of over 350 visual artists, designers, and musicians working in an old production facility.  Besides artist work spaces, the complex houses an artist’s café, canteen, cultural hall, and outdoor common areas.  A creative hub, the site hosts exhibitions, fairs, films, and other cultural events. The affordable rent at ECC affords Stephanie the opportunity to work a part-time job, so she has time to focus on her art making.

Stephanie refers to herself as a portrait artist. In her work, she explores issues of community, identity, and history. She creates drawings, mixed media, and installations, as a way to develop narratives about herself and her family history. While at MassArt, Stephanie was exposed to a variety of processes including weaving, dyeing, and printmaking, all of which have fueled her work. She begins most projects with writing, making sketches, and collecting images for reference. She recalls creating a successive series of self-portraits on a large roll of paper over a two month period in 2008. She was struck by the “drastic” variety of the images and the moods they conveyed.

When asked during a recent interview with Glovebox about the discoveries that have resulted from her creative investigations, Stephanie remarks: “As I’m working on the family portraits, at times I feel very close to these people through the intimacy of drawing them.  On other days I feel as though I’m moving further from a real understanding of who these people were/are, as I begin to fabricate stories around the image I am working with.” These narratives often take the form of layered collages.


Although Stephanie plans to stay in Berlin, she is currently looking for a gallery in the United States to show her latest work, a series entitled The Way the Story....


Caleb Charland '04 (BFA Photography)

Caleb Charland ‘04 (BFA Photography) is inspired by the mystery of simple phenomena. He believes “art stems from those moments when something ordinary stands out, you notice it, and proceed to have an experience.” For him, photography is a medium of wonder that allows him to “explore his world hoping to find the extraordinary in the everyday.” His photographic work reflects the results of his exploration. Read More

His curiosity about simple science and work done by hand was first awakened in Hampden, Maine, where he grew-up in a “do-it-yourself” household. Caleb recalls a particular summer day, at age nine, when he was helping his dad on a construction project to double the size of the family home. While watching his dad work, Caleb remembers being mesmerized by “the electric blue nebula” that was expelled from a snapped chalk line, the sparks that came from a nail that was struck by a mishandled hammer, and the propane halo from a copper pipe that “emitted lime green meteorites” in all directions.

In high school, Caleb took photography classes and upon graduation he enrolled in MassArt through the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) program. He credits the photography faculty with helping him to build a strong foundation for his experimental work. Professor Laura McPhee encouraged him to continually grow as an artist and to develop high standards of craft. Professor Nicholas Nixon taught him how to operate a view camera, a format he uses to this day. He was also inspired by the way Professor Abelardo Morrell incorporates objects and light in his photography, and his curiosity in the every day.

During the fall semester of his senior year, Caleb participated in an exchange program in Glasgow, Scotland, where he became interested in constructing subjects before the camera. This resulted in a series of paper landscapes. That year he was also recognized with Departmental Honors in Photography from MassArt.

After graduating from MassArt, Caleb moved back home where he had access to the basement and garage; there he could build and tinker.  He also enrolled in math and science classes at a local community college. This rekindled his interest in scientific phenomena, which led him to develop a series of images entitled Demonstrations.  “With this work I found a resonance in things, an energy vibrating in that space between perception of an object and the potential the mind senses for the object,” says Caleb.

"Demonstrations" series                            "BioGraphs" series

Further discovery occurred when he entered the Masters Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a Trustees Fellow. It happened quite by accident, when out of curiosity, he decided to allow bacteria to grow on the surface of film.  The bacteria consumed the gelatin emulsion and ate around the silver leaving behind random deposits. Once the bacteria ran its course and stopped growing, he scanned the film. The results of this experimentation are his series of BioGraphs.

A video he made about the process of constructing his apple tree project was recently featured on the Discovery Channel

Caleb Charland currently resides in Portland, Maine, where he is an artist-in-residence at Maine College of Art.


Chandra Dieppa Ortiz '05 (MSAE) 

Chandra Dieppa Ortiz ’05 (MSAE) is an artist and educator who infuses her passion for community, history and storytelling into her practice. As a young child growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, she learned quickly that living in an urban environment can be rough.  She describes Patterson as a place where “the sky was not the limit and the street corners were a dangerous place to be.” At age 10, Ortiz moved with her family to Tampa, Florida; she later attended Florida State University where she studied history.  Despite her early experiences, Ortiz saw that people’s circumstances need not be limiting, and that education can unlock doors and provide opportunities. She also came to believe one needs to develop a sense of self and see one’s own struggle, in order to learn how to navigate the world in which we live. This insight has guided her over the years.

Originally a self-taught artist, Ortiz was drawn to cartooning and making art from found objects. As her awareness grew about the important role of art in culture and society, she decided it was time to pursue formal art training, so she came to Boston in 1997 to work on a post baccalaureate in painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. By 2005, when Ortiz graduated from MassArt with a Master of Science in Art Education, she had already developed a studio practice. She was also working in the Boston Public Schools system providing professional development to teachers on how to create positive school climates and was helping to place high school students in area cultural centers.

Of her experience at MassArt, Ortiz recalls a great creative community and a time when the art education department was transitioning to a model of blending art education and studio practice. She found inspiring mentors in Maureen Kelly and John Crowe, both professors in the art education program. “Professor Kelly helped me think through how I could make a difference as an artist, community builder, and educator,” says Ortiz. “From Professor Crowe I was inspired to think out-of-the-box and to turn things on their heads as a means of discovering what’s possible.” They both helped her to see just how uniquely poised she was as an artist and educator to affect change in the communities she served.

Ortiz is currently the art director at Dorchester Academy, where she teaches art and oversees arts programming during school hours and afterschool. She has also previously taught at Massart as an adjunct faculty member. In her studio practice, she creates inter-related series of paintings, mixed media collage, assemblage and works on paper that explore the historical and contemporary use of storytelling. She tackles issues of class, culture, gender and race, in an effort to create a dialogue between communities and generations. These visual stories are developed as if being retold from the perspective of four different generations.

Ortiz is a past Foster Prize nominee from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and recently received a $15,000 Brother Thomas Fellowship Award from the Boston Foundation. The award is in honor of Brother Thomas Bezanson, a Benedictine monk and ceramic artist credited with elevating the status of ceramics from craft to fine art in the United States with the extraordinary quality of his work and his artistic vision. “The Brother Thomas Fellowship Award is a wonderful gift,” remarks Ortiz. “It is a catalyst of change for me.” The fellowship will allow her the opportunity to take some time off from teaching in fall 2012 to focus on her own work and to travel to Europe and South America. She is looking forward to increasing her knowledge base related to building and sculpture techniques. She wants to immerse herself in global conversations regarding issues of community and transience. She also looks at this as an opportunity to stretch and grow as an artist, so she can better give back, as her eventual goal is to develop a community arts program or school.


Edward Masberg '40 (Drawing & Painting)

Ed Malsberg entered Massachusetts College of Art in the fall of 1936. Raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Ed grew up during the great depression and rarely had the opportunity to venture outside of his neighborhood. Like many young men of the time, his brother was charged with helping ease the family’s financial burdens, which allowed Ed to pursue an education in art. Even though MassArt was just a few miles away from his childhood home, Ed recalls, “It felt like an entirely different world. I was suddenly surrounded by students from all over country, knowledgeable and skilled faculty, and a cultural scene that exposed me to music, ideas, and art I would never have imagined.”

    When asked about the culture of the college during the late thirties and early forties, Ed provides insight which could only be articulated by someone who lived through it. He says, “During that time, the country was in deep depression and about to enter a world war. That influenced the type of work we were doing and being taught to do. As children of the depression, we felt we had to be competent in our skills. Little emphasis was put on creativity; we had to be what the market wanted. The freedom to be abstract is a luxury, a luxury we didn’t have. We were influenced by social realism, artists like Sloan, Bellows, Hopper, Homer, Sargent, all these artists depicted real life, hardships and all.”

    Aside from the bleak reality of country’s financial and political instability, Ed describes this time at MassArt as one of the most transformative periods in his life.  “I met lifelong friends during my time at MassArt and felt more cared for by the faculty than I could have ever imagined.” After graduating from MassArt in 1940, Ed and many of his classmates enlisted in the armed forces and served in World War II. During the war, Ed worked oversees in the topography unit, due to his technical training at MassArt.

    After the war, Ed and fellow MassArt classmates and war veterans, Donald Spitzer, Clifford Geary, and Donald McKay, decided to move to New York to pursue their artistic careers. Ed describes this time as “romantic and magical. New York during that time was a special place. The four of us shared a two room tenancy in a building filled with creative types. Across the hall was an actor whose phone was disconnected, so he used to use our phone to book gigs. His name was Charlton Heston.” During this time, Ed recalls that two MassArt faculty members visited the group of alumni at their New York apartment, “It meant a lot to us that our teachers came to visit. At MassArt the teacher and pupil relationship is different than it is at most places. They really cared about us and we cared about them.”

    This support system encouraged Ed to continue his career as a freelance artist; a career which has lasted over 65 years. His clients have included major advertising agencies and book publishers, and subjects ranging from humor, decorative illustration, science, natural history, biology, physiology, children's books and textbooks. In 1962 Ed and his wife moved to Westchester, New York where Ed still lives and works today as a landscape and watercolor artist. Ed is heavily involved with the Westchester Arts Council and prides himself on being one of its founding members.

    Ed has kept in close contact with his MassArt classmates over the years. Donald Spitzer remained a close friend, colleague, and neighbor for nearly 75 years until he passed away in November of this year. The connections, friendships, and skills Ed developed during his time MassArt have stayed with him throughout his life. He has truly embraced what it means to be an artist and continues to dedicate his life to his craft at 93 years old. http://emalsberg.com/index.html

Case Randall ’06 (Sculpture)

Case Randall is an artist in every sense of the word. Her aversion to conformity has taken her down the road less traveled and provided her with some exciting, and certainly unique, life experiences. A Massachusetts native, Case’s artistic drive has taken her all over the world. She has been heavily involved with Handshouse Studio’s Gwozdziec Synagogue reconstruction project in Poland, which aims to rebuild an exquisite 17th-century wooden synagogue that was destroyed during the Nazi reign.  Since graduating from MassArt, Case has been involved with a multitude of projects and has worked as a bench jeweler; food stylist; art shipper & handler; artist's assistant; gallery assistant; teaching assistant and landscaper. She currently lives in Cambridge with her boyfriend, dog, and cat and maintains a studio in Somerville.

1. What made you decide to choose to go to MassArt?

MassArt was the fourth college I attended. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of going to art school. My whole life, everyone said I should go to art school. I have a history of not doing what I'm told. I think I needed to prove to myself that I was going to art school, not because I couldn't hack it at regular school, but because it really was the right place for me. I did enjoy the liberal arts curriculum at the other colleges but none of the art departments had much to offer compared to MassArt.

2. Besides technical skills, what was the most important thing you learned while attending MassArt?

The importance of being part of a community of artists. It's hard to get the same level of emotional and intellectual support from people who follow a more "normal" life path. I do have friends and family who are business people or office workers and I can tell my life choices are somewhat perplexing to them.

3. Can you talk a little about your involvement with the Handshouse program in Poland. How/why did you get involved? What was the experience like? What did you learn from the experience?

I started working with Rick and Laura on the Gwozdziec Project in it's earliest stages in 2003, my first year at MassArt. They asked me to assistant teach a winter session course at Oberlin College and a unit at Ipswich High School. I stayed somewhat involved with the project even after I graduated. They had always talked about one day doing a reconstruction in Poland, and finally all the right pieces fell into place. It was an easy decision when they asked me to be part of the painting/teaching team.

The best word to sum up the experience so far is intense. We are under contract to finish the project over the course of two summers in Poland. We have groups of Polish and American students coming every two weeks while we are there, some of whom have no experience painting. Luckily, Rick and Laura put together an amazing team and we are accomplishing the impossible.

4. Did you like working in such a collaborative setting? What is your normal work style?

I usually enjoy the company of others, but by and large I consider myself a lone wolf. However, working on such an incredible project with such exceptional people has been a great pleasure and an honor.
And I do enjoy teaching.

5. What are you working on now? What has inspired you lately?

I'm actually working on a performance/video piece right now. It's in the early planning stages and it's definitely outside my comfort zone, so I don't yet know if it will see the light of day. And I've got a few mixed media sculptures in progress. I'm playing around with different textures and materials. I'm drawing inspiration from my relationship to different household objects and foods. It's like the art version of "write what you know". I've been doing a lot of cleaning and cooking since I've come home.

6. You're very involved with the MassArt Alumni Association can you speak to why you decided to stay so connected and what benefit it has provided for you?

MassArt is a very special place for students and it was hard for me to adjust after graduation. I still came back to the school regularly to assistant teach and visit my professors but I wanted to do what I could to maintain/support a strong alumni community.

7. To what do you attribute your success?

That's a loaded question!
I guess being willing to forgo the usual things people are striving for in their twenties -money, marriage, babies- has made it easier to remain uncompromising in pursuing my artistic goals.

8. Future plans?

Going back to Poland next summer. And applying to grad school for sculpture.

Robin Chalfin '96 (Fashion Design)

1996 MassArt fashion alumna, Robin Chalfin, has made a living making people look good. From costume design to custom tailoring, Robin has worked for a variety of clients since her days at MassArt. Over the years her pieces have been seen dancing on stage with the Boston Ballet, walking down the streets of Boston, and illuminated on the big screen.

Robin’s, first job out of college was working as a temp for the Boston Ballet. She quickly made her way from ‘stitch room’ to ‘first hand’, honing her sewing skills and learning all she could from veteran designers. Because of Boston Ballet’s active performance seasons, Robin learned quickly how to create designs that are both functional and beautiful. Budgetary and general space restrictions meant costumes were often recycled and Robin became at expert tailor in no time.

After nine years of creating show-stopping costumes , Robin took what she had learned at the Ballet and ventured out on her own, starting a tailoring and custom design business. Toolkit - is in essence a mobile tailoring/custom design operation; Robin makes ‘house calls’ allowing clients to stay in the convenience of their own homes while she tucks, folds, tears, and stitches. Business is thriving and Toolkit received a 2011 Best of Boston award in tailoring.

The accessibility of Robin’s work style has allowed her career to take a very exciting path and she is often hired to work as a tailor at concerts and on movies sets. She is a member of many artist’s and entertainment unions and has worked with a multitude of celebrity clients including; the Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Michelle Williams, Adam Sandler, and Selma Heyak.

Robin credits much of her success to her education both formally at MassArt and informally as a young apprentice at Boston Ballet. She can currently be found sharing her wealth of knowledge with the MassArt community as the studio manager in the Fashion Department. Robin is a shining example of innovative spirit and fearless attitude which personify the MassArt alumni community.

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