Reston artist Mike Cantwell is getting the gang back together, and it’s going to be an event.
Cantwell, 54, is part of a group of eight accomplished artists from across the country, who in the late 1970s all studied art together in a dilapidated field house on the campus of Notre Dame University under the tutelage of innovative art professor Doug Kinsey.
The group, including Kinsey, 77, will have a public reunion, of sorts, in Herndon next week when the exhibit “Sons & Daughters of the Golden Dome” premieres Tuesday at the Artspace Herndon gallery.
Many of the group, along with Kinsey and two other former Notre Dame art professors, plan to attend an artists’ reception in their honor on Aug. 6 at the gallery.
“I haven’t seen some of these people in over 30 years,” said Cantwell, who graduated from Notre Dame with an art degree in 1979 and is curating the upcoming Artspace exhibit.
“Mike wasn’t terribly academic,” said Kinsey of his former student. “But he was extremely talented.”
Today, Cantwell is a professor of art at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., and the college’s director of Computer Graphics & Animation.
In his Reston home studio, he estimates he produces about 15 oil and acrylic paintings per year, displaying them in galleries in Reston, Arlington and McLean.
The exhibit’s other seven artists who studied under Kinsey also have become well-known in their respective parts of the country. Kinsey himself still paints.
“The artists featured in this exhibit studied together in the late 1970s at both Notre Dame, and sister college St. Mary’s, when the art education program was transformed by the addition of an undergraduate degree in studio art,” said Robin Carroll, of Artspace Herndon. “It was this program that brought these talented painters from all over the country to work on their craft in South Bend, Ind. The artists and teachers represented in this exhibition are still working today and have received national and international recognition for their achievements.”
According to Kinsey, the group of former students is unique because they were among the first to foster and critique each other’s talent in an old field house that the art department commandeered after it was abandoned by Notre Dame’s athletic department.
“At that time, the art department was desperately in need of more room,” said Kinsey. “The university had just built a huge new sports facility a few years earlier, and their old field house just sat there to rot.”
Kinsey said that on a whim, without prior approval, the art department moved all its belongings into the house and took it over.
“There was so much room in there, that every art student was able to have their own studio,” he said.
“It was perfect for us,” adds Cantwell. “There was a full-size basketball court, a 220-yard running track, a boxing room and a 30-foot ceiling.”
Kinsey said although the university’s administrators weren’t initially pleased with the way the art department acquired the field house, it eventually relented and allowed the department to use it.
According to Cantwell, in addition to the much-needed space, the field house also enabled the budding artists to work, collaborate and critique each other’s work in an artistic setting.
“How art is created is very important as to what is created,” he said. “I believe we all achieved some level of success because of two factors: One, we were able to study under professor Kinsey and other talented teachers who nurtured us; and two, we were able to form a strong, collaborative bond by all being there together in a place that was our own, instead of part-time in a sterile classroom used for all sorts of things.”
The public is invited to the artists’ reception from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 6. The reception will reunite the former art students with their teachers. Live music performed by ArtSpace’s music director, Al Robertson, includes an original composition written for the event.
The exhibition, containing 45 pieces of art, ceramics and sculpture, will run Tuesday through Aug. 28.
For more information about gallery hours and directions, www.artspaceherndon.org or call 703-956-6590.