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News . Feature Stories . Alum finds meaning in giving


August 30, 2023

Alum finds meaning in giving

Chuck Kovacic ’72, a Signature member of the California Art Club since 2017, exhibits work in a California Art Club exhibition. In 2016, Kovacic was the recipient of the club’s William and Julia Bracken Wendt Award. Submitted photo.

By Michael C. Butz

After Chuck Kovacic ’72 earned his BFA in Graphic Design, with a minor in Painting, he eventually headed west to sunny Southern California, where his plein-air painting practice has no shortage of scenic inspiration. He’s found a community there by way of his advisory and programming activities with the California Art Club.

But his connection to Cleveland—and, more specifically, the Cleveland Institute of Art and its community—has remained strong over the years. In fact, in July, Kovacic joined several of his classmates in Cleveland for a 50-year reunion.

“I took considerable joy in embracing the success of others as well as their eventual triumphs over various adversities,” he says. “The delightful tour of Nottingham Spirk was an affirmation that talent can find a path through innovation and hard work. I spent several hours sharing the career arc of a talented painter. The joy of seeing how a focused designer engaged their talents to promote their various pursuits. How a gifted photographer cobbled so many creative aspects together to establish his place in the community. A rich cocktail of artistic endeavors!”

His friendship to CIA has remained firm in other ways, too. For the last 20 years or so, Kovacic has steadily supported CIA by making gifts that help current students.

“As the years go by, an artist grows wistful of their formative days,” he says. “The foundations that were established at the Institute enabled me to navigate through a number of turbulent challenges. Frequent bouts of unemployment requiring the necessity for reinvention were built upon a “sense of self” generated at CIA. My donations were an acknowledgement of those abilities as a reminder of their origins.”

Alumni might choose to give for many reasons. It could simply be a matter of forming a lifelong relationship with their alma mater. It could be to pay it forward so that artists and designers who follow in their CIA footsteps might benefit. For Kovacic, the reasons are deeply personal.

“Although the amounts were small, they represented an embrace of artistic gratitude,” he says. “The passing of a classmate became a forthright remembrance as I sought to relive moments together by making a donation. I could see their work and relive cherished conversations with each check that I sent along.”

What advice might Kovacic offer to fellow alumni thinking of giving back to CIA?

“I’d suggest that a donation in the name of a classmate who has passed can become an important remembrance and commemoration of a shared friendship,” he says. “That donation becomes a prayer that will now be passed along to a newer generation of fellow artists.”

Back in California, when Kovacic isn’t exhibiting in the California Art Club’s annual Gold Medal show or in its Old Mill Gallery in San Marino, he enjoys attending CIA alumni gatherings.

“Because of my West Coast location, the important contact has been those annual CIA forays to Los Angeles,” he says, referring to events around the annual CTN eXpo in Burbank. “It’s been a delight to hear of new dreams from those who are committed to making them a reality.”

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