Written by David Hall
A collection of work that spans time and genre and includes greats like Andy Warhol surrounded a crowd of trustees of the college and their friends and family who in kind surrounded alumna Joanne Cassullo as she announced a $1 million donation to RC’s fine arts program.
The crowd gasped and burst into applause as Cassullo made clear her intention at a dinner opening on the one weekend a semester in which the board gathers to make decisions about the college’s future. Cassullo and Olin Gallery director Talia Logan had been planning the announcement for some time, but wanted it to remain a secret until last Thursday’s announcement.
The money will go to bringing artists to campus, underwriting Logan’s efforts as director and providing funding for student internships in positions that otherwise would not pay.
“Talia’s and my shared vision [is] to make Roanoke College an origin of thinking about the role that art can play in today’s society for our students,” said Cassullo, “…and it is my hope that Roanoke College students may become as inspired as I was when they, too, set out to make their mark in the world.”
The dinner followed a dedication ceremony for the “Tree of 40 Fruit,” a live installation outside Olin Hall by artist Sam Van Aiken. Van Aiken has become known for these trees that quite literally bear 40 different kinds of stone fruit when they reach maturity.
Bringing the tree to RC was Cassullo’s doing as well. As a board member since the late 1990’s, Cassullo has worked tirelessly to bring great art to the campus. Her accomplishments on campus range from the color photographs on display in the Colket Center donated by photographer John Margolies to building the college’s permanent collection, the highlights of which are on display currently in the Olin Hall gallery. Her most recent endeavor is the 14-ft “Rooney Topiary,” which draws attention from all who walk by it.
An alumna of 1978, Cassullo has spent most of her adult life working in the contemporary world via her involvement with the Whitney Museum of American Art, Creative Time, an opportunity she says she wants to put back into her alma mater.
“My years at RC were so rich with rewarding experiences and the love that I still feel for my friends,” said Cassullo. “This gift was given to honor that, and at the same time, with the hope that I am leading by example.”