Arts and Entertainment

Local artist's work becomes Dean Monk's official portrait

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Dean David H. Monk had his portrait drawn by William Snyder III, he wasn't thinking about where it would end up; he was simply doing the artist a favor.

"The portrait was actually produced in 2009," Snyder recounted recently.

William Snyder III created this portrait of Dean David H. Monk, which will be hung in Chambers Building. Credit: William Snyder IIIAll Rights Reserved.

Snyder, who in addition to being an artist is a strong advocate for the arts, used to run an arts and entertainment venue on Beaver Avenue in State College, where Monk's wife, Pam, held some of her Pamelapolis theater productions.

"I had been doing portraits at festivals, and I had been wanting to get into executive portraiture," Snyder said. "I learned that Pam's husband was a dean, so I asked, 'Could you get your husband to sit for me as an example?' He agreed, so we set up a photo shoot in his house and I worked from a photo to make the charcoal drawing. It's been in my living room for the past decade."

When Monk announced his upcoming retirement, the College of Education Alumni Society Board asked about having a portrait of him to hang in Chambers Building, along with those of other former deans of the college.

"They reached out to me to see if I still had the portrait, for them to consider using to commemorate his service to the college. I sent them pictures and they did decide to go with it. It wasn't your typical executive commission for a dean's portrait, but I recognize the significance of this work being hung in the College of Education. It's really quite an honor," Snyder said.

Charcoal is a favorite medium for Snyder, who has been working with it since his undergraduate days.

"In college I studied with Professor Herbert Olds at Carnegie Mellon and I loved his drawing style. I really loved the way he pushed a drawing. Even in the darkest of darks, there's something going on," Snyder said.

"As with Dean Monk's coat, I really tried to push the drawing as much as I could to give it depth and a sculptural quality."

Snyder, who grew up in Bedford, started college at Carnegie Mellon, transferred several times, and ended up at Penn State, where he finished his degree in integrative arts with a minor in French.

"I then went right into a fine arts degree, earning a master of fine arts in printmaking," Snyder said.

Snyder creates artwork of all types, from charcoal drawings and murals, to theater sets, to sculptures for a subsidiary of a mechanical bull sales company. He also teaches evening drawing classes for the School of Visual Arts at Penn State.

He said his most significant piece was his master's thesis, "800,000, Acknowledge, Remember, Renew," a commemorative installation about the Rwanda genocide, which was on display at the United Nations in 2014 for the 20th anniversary exhibition. It most recently was on display at West Chester University.

Snyder has a few pieces on display in State College, including the Wild Geese Mural on East Beaver Avenue between Humes Alley and Pugh Street in downtown State College.

"I designed that, and led a community team to produce it," Snyder said. "There's another small mural behind the State Theatre, a bunch of faces, that I worked on with one of my students, and a 12-foot pair of eyeglasses" at a local optometrist's office.

Snyder plans to be on hand for the hanging and dedication of Monk's portrait during the Alumni Society Board's meeting at the end of June.

Last Updated June 19, 2019