Saying goodbye to longtime Fellows

In 2017, VCCA lost some longtime and dear Fellows…among them, Ann Birstein, Shirley Nisbet, and Mel Rosenthal.

Together they were with us for almost 50 residencies…months and months over the years, they spent time focusing on their creative work…Ann on her novels and memoir, Shirley on her paintings, Mel on his photography.  They shared their work and their lives with us, and they became part of our lives at VCCA.

Their work lives on and the memory of their vibrant personalities stay with us.

Ann always exhibited a dry wit and a sharp comeback that belied her kindness.  She told wonderful stories of growing up in Hells Kitchen.  She worked hard in the studio, but loved to spend the late afternoon at the VCCA pool and reveled in the rural landscape outside of her native New York.

Shirley with her exuberant paintings and amazing stamina despite her physical challenges, encouraged us all with a kind word, a smile and a lilting accent. Her large paintings captivated us with bold color and lines that captured light and emotion, as well as the natural world…seascapes and coastlines.

Mel, the wry photographer, was always snapping pictures while telling stories of his work in the Bronx, in Cuba, and in Latin America.  His work made visible those who were often invisible to society–the homeless, the refugee, those living in urban decay.  He was often in residence with his partner visual artist Bobbe Perry-Mapp.

It is hard to imagine 2018 without them, but they have left their mark in this world, and we remember them with great fondness.

-Sheila Gulley Pleasants


Ian Nisbet said…
VCCA was a very special place for Shirley. She had 12 fellowships there between 1987 and 2013 and did much of her best work there. It was the only place where she could completely detach herself from the everyday commitments of family, friends and home life, and concentrate 100% on her work. She made many lifelong friendships with other fellows, including painters, musicians and writers from several different countries. Heartfelt thanks to VCCA for making this possible, not only for Shirley but for everyone else who has the privilege of working there, Ian Nisbet.

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