One Artist’s Desire to Give Back
WORDS BY CHELSEA HESS- MOORE
Art is an expression that comes in many forms and stems from numerous inspirations. Some artwork comes from happiness and others from mourning. But, what is at times the most powerful aspect of Art is its power to send a message, making a difference in an instant for its viewers.
For Thomas Notarangelo, art is an expression that he has embodied for many years. The 49-year-old is a graphic designer, artist and teacher. For the last 17 years, he has been teaching at The Art Institute of York – Pennsylvania and has enjoyed all the aspects that this role has brought to his life.
“I really enjoy the creative community and teaching and the relationships that come from it,” says Notarangelo. “We keep those relationships, and then it’s not even about the art anymore. It’s just about the relationships and what they are doing now. I have some of my best students that aren’t even in art anymore at this point and they have started families and it’s just nice to keep in touch with them.”
While the bonds that Notarangelo and his students form has brought great joy and many shared memories, there has also been tragedy and unexpected heartbreak.
“In the past, we had a student who committed suicide, and I worked with his parents to create a coloring booklet in his memory,” he explains. “And then we had a student who overdosed, and that was definitely an inspiration for my latest work as well. I’m trying to give back and trying to create a memory in a way that I was touched by their life or by the way that they had to leave it.”
Notarangelo strives for his art to have the purpose of giving back and wants his work to convey meaning and substance.
“One of the things I think about is inspiration, art, application,” he explains. “Inspiration from whether it’s young people or something that was good or bad that happened. Art is what you produce from that, and application is how you apply it.”
Some of his latest work was inspired by his former student, Greg Sterkenberg, who tragically lost his life due to a heroin overdose at the young age of 23.
Instead of the often-utilized tools of Photoshop and digital enhancements, Notarangelo wanted to embark on a more original project as part of his latest work. He used a watercolor method that he refers to as wet-into-wet, which is the use of black India ink mixed with water and creating an effect that allows the ink to bleed and create images.
“It is about the balance of controlling what you want to happen and it became really exciting once I put it all together with the copy,” he says. “It became very abstract and it’s an actual original piece of art. I wanted it to be more experimental and organic and to have more ownership of it.”
During one of his art exhibits back in March, he showcased his watercolor creations along with his heroin awareness campaign slogans that he paired with each artwork. A York-based organization happened to view his exhibit, and from there the rest was fate, as he calls it.
Notarangelo landed a campaign deal with The York Chapter of Not One More. This organization puts forth an effort to provide awareness, education and support to those affected by drug abuse and addiction. The group provides services for all aspects, including information about drugs and recovery options, programs to help maintain recovery, assistance finding a rehabilitation facility and support for families and friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to drugs.
Through the campaign, which was released in May, Notarangelo’s watercolor paintings along with his slogans are on display in various advertising outlets predominantly in York, including bus-stop shelters, billboards, interior banners on public buses and posters in taverns.
“It really is a joy to see the artwork up, drawing attention and doing its job to create some awareness,” says Notarangelo. “That is a great mental reward and that is why I’ll continue to do what I do. I am from the thought that the more you give, somehow or another, it will come back in some way. I get so much more joy from relationships and the ‘thank yous’ that come from giving art.”
During the establishment of the campaign with The York Chapter of Not One More, Notarangelo has built a strong working relationship with their organization to make this campaign a success. He realizes that drugs and addiction can affect anyone, something he experienced when he suffered the loss of his former student.
“The heroin issue affects people that have kind spirits and are good people,” he says. “It’s like a serial killer trying to create a separation between the addict and the disease or the person and the disease. During that separation, they are not in control. There is something bigger than them. That is where the monster came in and the separation of thought.”
The campaign will continue to run indefinitely. As for Notarangelo, he considers himself to be at a crossroads in his creative journey. But one thing always stands consistent for him – his eagerness and desire to make a positive impact with his art.
“I am looking for what my next step will be,” he says. “I am doing that by doing what I enjoy and giving back with my art in some way. And that has always been my example for my students. I have always given them that advice going into this creative journey as I call it.”
To find out more information about Not One More – The York Chapter, visit notonemoreyorkpa.org.