Kleeman Fund provides a chance for students to express themselves through art

Exhibitions showcase Allegheny alumni work

Artists entered The Bowman-Penelec-Megahan Art Galleries on Saturday, Sept. 2 to create art with and around one another for the 8 Hour Projects: Beyond These Walls event. Although the event has been held at Allegheny for over two decades, this was the first year the artists were comprised solely of Allegheny College alumni. Several of the artists were given a unique opportunity through Allegheny in the form of project support through the Richard Kleeman Research Fund.

One Kleeman fund recipient, who participated in 8 Hour Projects, was Cynthia Lee, a 2012 graduate who now works as a freelance illustrator and tattoo artist.

“I bought lots of different materials,” Lee said. “It was a large project, and I wouldn’t have been able to make the project without it.”

Nicholena Moon, another 2012 graduate who just finished her master’s degree with the Maryland Institute College of Art, found even the application process to receive money from the Kleeman fund was beneficial.

Jude Shingle, ‘08, and Annie Schmitt ,‘08, work on their piece entitled Emergency Surgery.
Jack Conant, ‘12, works on his piece, I Will Not Let Them See Me #0, by photographing the eyes of Allegheny Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Heather Brand for the 8 Hour Projects on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.

“You had to write standard things you have to do for any grant throughout your art career,” Moon explained. “But it was my first time writing a proposal for a grant, so it was definitely a good learning experience.”

With the money she was granted, Moon traveled to New York City for her project, which involved a series of staged photographs.

“The nature of my series benefited from being around iconic locations,” Moon said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the fund money. It allowed me to push my photography to a level that I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. I’m really grateful that the fund exists, and it’s a really huge benefit for the art students here.”

Current art student Madeleine Zimmermann, ’18, participated in the event alongside alumni artists by sewing bags that were later sold. A recipient of the Kleeman fund both semesters junior year, Zimmermann found the applications for the fund to be very accessible.

“Students are limited on what they can spend, and [the Kleeman fund] removes a stress element,” Zimmermann said. “[The fund] allowed me to be more experimental. If you’re trying to keep a close eye on how much you’re spending, you can’t be as experimental. There were definitely times when I realized I had multiple options and could try them on a smaller scale, and that was really helpful to the process in general.”

The Kleeman fund came about in the early 1990s when Professor Richard Kleeman was getting ready to retire after 39 years at Allegheny. Professor of Art Amara Geffen explained she considered Kleeman to be her mentor.

“Some teachers just really impact hundreds and hundreds of people,” Geffen said. “He had that kind of magnetism and intensity, and he had a huge impact on many, many generations of Allegheny art students and even those who were not art majors.”

As Kleeman prepared to leave for retirement, Geffen explained that she, along with other members of the art department, knew they wanted to do something to honor all the years Kleeman had dedicated to Allegheny and its students.

With the help of the art department, various alumni and her husband, former Allegheny student Jed Miller, Geffen said she obtained permission to begin a fundraising campaign with the stipulation that the campaign had to collect a minimum of $8,000 to $10,000. At the time, the largest challenge stemmed from the college officials’ fear the campaign would not reach the minimum requirement.

“There was a little bit of hesitation, which I understand,” Geffen said. “In that era, everyone thought about everyone. When you had a colleague who had been here for that long, you wanted to honor that person. It was all understandable.”

While others were concerned the campaign would fall short of its goal, Geffen said she never doubted they would raise the funds.

“He was a remarkable professor, he was a remarkable artist, he just knew how to help people find their core,” Geffen said. “He inspired a lot of people, so it was easy to do the fundraising and it was simple for the department. We brainstormed very briefly and it was very clear: this would be successful, it would have a long-term impact on the program and would continue his legacy of impact on students.”

By the time the campaign finished, the art department nearly doubled the minimum amount of money set by college officials. The fund was officially endowed, guaranteeing its continued support of Allegheny artists.

“The intention behind it was not just to honor Dick [Kleeman], but to continue the legacy that he brought to the department, to extend opportunities beyond the classroom into something larger, something more impactful. It was to help students have really resonate and significant experiences outside of the classroom,” Geffen said.

Since 1992, when the first cycle of Kleeman grants began, the art department has been able to, as Professor Geffen had hoped, extend students’ opportunities beyond the classroom. Professor Darren Lee Miller, the chair for the Art Department and official contact person for the Kleeman fund, said he continues to be impressed by what art students have made of the fund.

“I’m consistently impressed with the quality of the artworks that students make while they’re here at Allegheny, whether they’re recipients of the Kleeman fund or not,” Miller said. “[The Kleeman fund] gives them some experience with grant writing, with following through with a final report afterwards, with being accountable for purchasing and budgeting, and really seeing a project through.”

Surrounded by alumni and former students with burgeoning careers, Geffen provided advice for students.

“There have been some really good results from projects, but I don’t think there’s been one thing that stands out. It’s just helpful for students to know that they have something that they can turn to for support,” Geffen said.