Former Griffins of all ages were invited to join the Chestnut Hill College Alumni Association in painting ‘Alma Mater,’ an original created and taught by Danielle Rossi ’97, at the College’s first Alumni Day Out at Painting with a Twist (PWAT) in Skippack, Pa.
Currently with more than 200 locations in 30 states, PWAT, which first opened its doors in 2009, provides aspiring artists a chance to teach first-time painters in a fun, relaxed and entertaining environment. For Rossi, who once planned to be a performer, finding a job at PWAT two years ago, made perfect sense.
“I was looking for opportunities to teach odd hours and this was also a chance to dance, to sing, to act silly and then teach a painting,” Rossi says. “I’ve been an artist my whole life and teaching art, it’s kind of like breathing.”
Before PWAT, Rossi taught art at Merion Mercy Academy, Mount St. Joseph High School and her current position as instructor in the Fine Arts Department at CHC, which she has held for the past four years.
“Coming back to Chestnut Hill to teach art, to be able to give back to the students now what I learned, the life lessons and everything, really is great,” she says.
One of these lessons, taught to her by Margie Thompson, SSJ, “to be a lifelong maker of art,” is one that Rossi, who majored in studio art and art history, especially believes in at her teaching job at the College and at PWAT.
One day Rossi was approached by friend and fellow alum, Maryanne Walsh, regarding a painting class. Rossi offered to create a unique image for Walsh and the group and ‘Alma Mater’ was born.
“St. Joseph Hall is its own inspiration,” Rossi says, reflecting on the image she chose to paint. “I remember as a kid, turning the corner of Germantown Pike and seeing it for the first time. I was taken aback by how beautiful and majestic it was. I’ve never not felt that way about it, even now. It’s breathtaking.”
Rossi’s first class teaching ‘Alma Mater’ consisted of close to 40 students, including Fran Vorsky, associate director of alumni relations. Together with PWAT, Rossi and Vorsky arranged two classes, both of which were offered exclusively to CHC alums.
“We had a great time,” Rossi says about the class held April 26. “Normally at Painting with a Twist we name the brushes, like the big one is Bob, but I gave them special names. So the big one was Sister Barbara (Glennon), the middle one Sister Florence (Edwards) and the small one, Sister Mary Helen Kashuba.”
In addition to naming the brushes after some of her own favorite professors, Rossi also led the event by having the group join her in singing the College alma mater. During the event, alums shared stories and memories about their time at CHC.
For both first-time painters and those who had taken classes at PWAT before, Rossi just had one piece of advice.
“Relax, enjoy and let all of that love you have for the campus and the experience be the guide to what you are doing,” she said before the start of the class. “When you have that love and put that love into your work, you can see the difference.”