About Gateway

Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.



On Friday, February 15, a four-alarm fire broke out in Main Building. While there were no injuries, the fire destroyed the roof and the 6th floor of the building, caused significant smoke and water damage to the 5th floor, and all of the floors below suffered water damage as well. According to the New York City Fire Department, the cause of the fire remains under investigation despite press reports.

Students—as many as 200—lost artwork, including a large number of senior painting students who were preparing for their final thesis presentations.

“Senior year is about putting everything together you have learned, to try to get at who you are as an artist. That has been thrown off,” said Maria de los Angeles, a student who lost much of her work in the fire. “Our work represented everything we had learned. It is gone. It showed our chronological development. It feels like a piece of me was torn out. But I know it wasn't."

Some students have lost all their work and are understandably experiencing major grief,” said Adjunct Professor Dennis Masback, who has been consoling students. “Some do not know the extent of their loss and are feeling frustrated and angry, while others incurred no loss at all, but nevertheless, are feeling sympathetic or even guilty, thinking, ‘Why them and not me?’”

In addition to the damage to the 6th floor studios and 5th floor classrooms, a number of departments within the School of Art and Design and some Institute-wide administrative offices, including those of the president and provost, were displaced. Damage incurred by the 1886 landmarked Romanesque Revival structure and its contents is currently being assessed by a disaster recovery firm contracted to work on remediation and salvage.

The Institute has been planning both short- and long-term recovery. By the Monday after the fire, all dislocated classes were held in new spaces, and by mid-week all offices and operations housed from the basement through the 4th floor of Main Building were relocated, for a total reallocation of 1,000 people and 40,000 square feet. Institute leadership has reached out extensively to support students as they regroup.

"I have been encouraged to see that many of our painting students were already back to work as early as last week in temporary studios throughout the campus. I remain confident that we will emerge from this stronger than ever as an institution," said President Thomas F. Schutte. "We continue to listen to concerns on the overall recovery process from all groups and to address those concerns in our planning."

A Fire Recovery Task Force, comprising senior leadership as well as affected students and faculty, has been created to coordinate and expedite programs and service to help students recover from fire-related losses and to address other issues affecting the community related to the impact of the fire. A Facebook page has been created for the Pratt campus to learn about fire-related news on topics ranging from art conservation to damaged works to campus space planning. A page on Pratt’s main website will feature the same fire-related content. The task force is ensuring that both students and faculty have opportunities to meet in small groups with President Schutte as well as key decision makers from the Facilities Department as recovery efforts move forward.

Outpouring of Support

In the days since the fire, offers of help from alumni and the greater community have been profound. Phones and emails have buzzed with offers of shared office space, furniture, equipment, and donations of art supplies from manufacturers and stores across the country. Museums including the Guggenheim and the New Museum invited students to visit with the admission waived.

Students have been holding impromptu fundraisers, like this one outside the Student Union, to benefit displaced students.Students themselves have launched impromptu fundraising events including a pop-up art sale outside the Student Union, a sale sponsored by the Print Department, and student clubs have also made donations to recovery efforts. 

“The outpouring of concern and donations have been staggering, and it really reinforces the positive side of human nature,” said Painting Coordinator and Professor Shirley Kaneda. "The students who have been affected by this tragedy have also felt the generosity which only strengthens their commitment and experience at Pratt.”

The collective response to the fire from the community, both inside and outside of Pratt, demonstrates the connectedness of the greater Pratt community. As soon as the fire was reported, friends and alumni immediately began to commiserate on social media outlets, particularly Twitter and Facebook.

"The influx of support was instantaneous," said Kate Ünver, digital communications editor. "In my four years managing the Institute's Twitter account, I've never before witnessed such an overwhelming sense of community and concern, not only from students, faculty, staff, and Brooklyn residents, but from institutions across the region and nation." Pratt friends, including fellow art and design schools and libraries across the country, Tweeted their condolences and pledges of support.

Moving Forward

Senior painters have relocated to the Steuben South Galleries, where they have already begun making art. They will remain at Steuben for the next couple of weeks while temporary studios are constructed in the south, far end of the gymnasium in the ARC Building for the rest of the semester.

Painting students are using gallery space in Steuben Hall while temporary studios are constructed in the ARC Building.

At a town hall meeting held by the task force, Institute leadership explained the design of the temporary structure, construction of which is slated to be complete March 18. Two separate zones will be created, replicating the functionality of the 5th and 6th floors. The first zone will have 44 individual painting studios, each almost 100 square feet—in some cases twice as large as the lost ones—and will also include a common pin-up area. A second zone will include two large painting studios and a smaller seminar room.

A number of students and faculty voiced their concern about ventilation, acoustics, and the lack of natural light. Glenn Gordon, executive director, Office of Planning, Design, Construction, and Facilities Management, explained that exhaust systems were being tested and would be upgraded if need be; adjacent noise would likely go up into the tall ceiling, not over into the studios; and, that the ARC ceiling would be painted white for better reflectivity. Other locations were considered, including off-campus venues, explained Provost Peter Barna, but the choice of the ARC Building was made largely because construction could begin immediately as the New York City Department of Buildings had expedited the approvals process for the campus site, making it the best choice, ensuring affected students could still get back to work and graduate on time. Barna emphasized that Institute leadership was eager to get feedback from both seniors and underclassmen on the ARC studios once they were in use.

One student brought up the risk of balls finding their way into the studio spaces. The administration explained that the basketball courts were on the other end of the gym and that if the tennis teams were using the space it would likely be early in the morning. One faculty member, who had been on the ground helping students regroup since the fire broke out, allayed the students fears“We could crochet a really big net,” she interjected. “It could be a community effort.”

What You Can Do

Many alumni and friends have generously contacted the Institute to see how they might contribute to Pratt’s recovery efforts. The Main Building Recovery Fund has been established for those who would like to help students in need or with the reconstruction of Main Building.

If you are interested in making an in-kind donation, the Institute asks that you please reach out to the Fire Recovery Task Force at mainrecovery@pratt.edu.

Text: Bay Brown
Photos: Kevin Weeks



On Friday, one week after the fire, the Institute’s student-run Painting Club, a group established in 2010 to foster a supportive artistic community, assembled for its monthly meeting in temporary space in the first floor M.F.A. galleries in Steuben Hall. While closer quarters in contrast to Main Building’s 6th-floor studios, impressive work already lined the walls including self-portraits for Professor Joseph Smith’s drawing class and vivid canvases slathered with donated paints almost in defiance of the flames. One student even painted images of the fire in a cathartic gesture.

Senior painting student Matt Black is getting back to work in short-term studio space in Steuben Hall.The meeting was led by senior and Painting Club President Matt Black, who sat in front of his own precinct of the ad hoc studio with the motto “Work Will Set You Free.” Black sees it as “a reminder to not fear hard work and to realize that my labor will produce something greater than the work that was put into it,” he explained.

“I wrote the same quote on my drawing desk in the 6th floor studio on the first day of class last semester,” he said. “I wrote it because I knew I would be working more than I have ever before this year and needed to remind myself of the benefits of working and dangers of laboring in futile pursuits.” Of course, now it is imbued with another layer of meaning.

As the dozen or so members of the Painting Club assembled, they talked about the new studios the Institute was building for them in the ARC Building. “The 6th floor wasn’t great, but we loved it,” remarked one student of the old space with its irregularly-sized warren of studios. “Maybe we will love the new space.”

“Home is where you make it,” reminded Professor Shirley Kaneda, the painting coordinator. While new studio space cannot bring back their lost work and the fact that they won’t have their solo thesis shows, Professor Kaneda reminded the students that the administration was trying to plan a group show of work.

Black shared the encouraging news that, in a gesture of solidarity, their fellow seniors at Parsons The New School for Design had invited them to be part of a joint show in March, where Pratt students could show their work—what they are able to create in that short time, be they mono-prints, small drawings, or paintings—together with Parsons seniors. The work of Parsons students in the Fine Arts, Illustration, and Photography programs would be offered for sale, with all proceeds going to the Pratt Institute Main Recovery Fund to assist students in the Department of Fine Arts who were affected by the recent fire.

Painting senior Susan Luss is one of a number of students getting back up to speed with donated art supplies.Throughout the meeting, seniors and affected underclassmen came into the gallery toting their new art supplies, provided by several art supply companies as well as the Institute in the form of gift cards.

For both students and faculty, it is clear that there is no one way all are coping with their loss, but for most it is an emotional experience. “Feelings must have their say if they are to be used in a positive way later on, and this is especially so for highly creative people,” said Catherine Redmond, an adjunct associate professor who teaches seniors painting. “The remarkable thing about artists is that their heightened sensitivity and ability to be vulnerable enough to create with abandon is coupled with their tremendous capacity to endure.”

“This is especially so in painting, where they follow a calling that guarantees nothing monetarily. It takes tremendous drive in a money-driven culture to be brave enough to pursue one’s dreams,” Redmond explained the students' feelings. “Listening to each other with mutual respect is the platform for their repair.”

Many of the seniors’ work focused on memory. Memories of a culture and family in a different country. Memory of a vibrant landscape that whooshed by on a morning run. Along with these memories comes the emotion of that experience. And now these memories have another layer of meaning and emotion.
While the students who lost work are coping differently, many, including senior Sally Novak, are finding art-making cathartic
Student Elina Ansary, whose photorealistic work focused on resurrecting past moments in objects, was initially at an utter loss. “My work is based a lot on personal experience, so losing all my memories and physical evidence of what I’ve been doing definitely has an effect on the way I think about what I do,” she said.

Adjunct Professor Dennis Masback holds to a positive outlook on the devastation. The day of the fire he told the New York Times: “I’m here to tell my students that even though all the work no longer exists, all the time, and the effort, and what they learned making the works still exists, and nothing, not even a fire, can take that away.”

Text: Bay Brown

Photos: Kevin Wick


2013 Alumni Achievement Awards Announced

Left to right, top to bottom: Bill Gold, Michael Flynn, Louis Nelson, Yuko Nii, Dwight Johnson, and Sherry Onna Handlin.On March 21, the Pratt Institute 2013 Alumni Achievement Awards will be presented to six accomplished alumni. The awards recognize outstanding graduates who have distinguished themselves in their fields, who have earned a high degree of respect among their colleagues and in the general community, and whose impact has been felt on a regional, national, or international level.

Award winners were chosen by a committee of similarly accomplished professionals—most past Alumni Achievement Award honorees—who reviewed all nominations received. Committee members included Arem Duplessis (M.S. Communications Design ’96), design director of The New York Times Magazine, Michael Inman (M.S.L.I.S. ’02), curator of rare books for the New York Public Library, Annabelle Selldorf (B. Arch. ’85), principal of Selldorf Architects, and photographer and NYU professor Deborah Willis (M.F.A. ’80). Members representing Pratt included Peter Barna, provost, and Todd Galitz, vice president, Institutional Advancement.

The jury selected Bill Gold, a prolific designer of over 2,000 movie posters, to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, an award given to alumni who have made significant accomplishments throughout their career. The other 2013 Alumni Achievement Award winners are Michael Flynn, urban planner with the New York City Department of Transportation, Sherry Onna Handlin, co-founder of Dance Theater of Nepal, Dwight Johnson, president of Dwight Johnson Design and co-founder of The Black Alumni of Pratt, Louis Nelson, designer and visionary artist, and Yuko Nii, founder of the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center. These award recipients will be acknowledged with categories of recognition that have been introduced this year:

Career Achievement Award: recognizes graduates who live Pratt’s values of aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skill, and technical expertise to make lasting contributions to society.

International Career Achievement Award: recognizes the Institute’s international alumni who live Pratt’s values of aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skill, and technical expertise to make lasting contributions to society.

Distinguished Service Award
: recognizes alumni who through their professional activity, philanthropic support, or service have made outstanding and significant contributions to Pratt Institute.

Community Commitment Award: recognizes alumni who have made outstanding and significant contributions to society on a volunteer basis or through their professional involvement.

Early Career Award: recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years, have earned distinction in the early stages of their career, and demonstrate tremendous future potential.

Bill Gold (Advertising Design ’40)
Lifetime Achievement Award

From childhood, Gold knew he wanted to be an artist. After graduating from Pratt Institute on a scholarship, he got a job in the poster department at Warner Brothers’ New York office. As a young art director, he could hardly have imagined how celebrated and world-renowned his first two projects would become. The assignments were Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca. Soon afterward, he enlisted in the Army, where he created training films for the Air Force. After the war, Gold returned to Warner Bros., and in the late 1950s headed west to Los Angeles to work on the Warner lot, where he created advertising campaigns for such movies as Giant, Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, The Searchers, and Gypsy. A true New Yorker, he came back east a few years later and set up his own shop, Bill Gold Advertising. For more than 60 years, Gold truly defined the genre of movie poster advertising. Funny Girl, My Fair Lady, The Exorcist, Clockwork Orange, On Golden Pond, Unforgiven, The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon and Mystic River are just a few of the thousands of films on which he has worked. In the late 1970s Gold found himself concentrating more on his work with Clint Eastwood than with other studios. By the mid-1980s he decided to dedicate all his time to Eastwood. Working with him from Dirty Harry to Mystic River has been an amazing collaboration.

Gold is currently enjoying retirement indulging in his second passion, photography, and lives in Old Greenwich, CT, with his wife, Susie, and their two dogs, Willoughby and Cooper.

Louis Nelson, (B.I.D. ’58; M.I.D. ’64)
Career Achievement Award

Louis Nelson has influenced much of what we see, hear, taste and smell; and how we walk, talk, learn and feel. He is a visionary artist in diverse disciplines of strategic planning, storytelling, filmmaking, communications, graphics, and industrial design, enriched by boundless curiosity and a rare sensitivity to the world around him. His credo: “Design sets a standard that affects our attitude toward quality and our sense of well-being.” He has directed a cascade of public and private programs here and abroad: the mural for the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall; the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Medal; Nutrition Facts on America’s food packages; colored skis for Head; No Nonsense Pantyhose; Statue of Liberty dining, the world’s highest-volume fast-food restaurant; information systems and signs at Logan, JFK, Air Train, World Trade Center transit centers, and New York City subways; exhibits and films for America worldwide; murals; and logos. A native New Yorker, Nelson lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his wife, Judy Collins, the noted singer, songwriter, and author.

Sherry Onna Handlin, (B.F.A., Art and Design Education ’67)
International Career Achievement

As a mixed-media artist and mentor, Sherry Onna Handlin serves as Projects Advisor and Co-founder with Raj Kapoor of the award-winning Dance Theater of Nepal (DTON). DTON has showcased traditional Himalayan Nepali folk and classical dance, music concerts, workshops, and special events throughout New York and beyond, including at the Tenri Institute, Symphony Space, Rubin Museum of Art, Queens Theater in the Park, American Museum of Natural History, Hammond Museum, Smithsonian, Pace University, Princeton, Columbia University, M.I.T, Pratt Institute, Stony Brook University, the United Nations, and several schools and community centers. Her work has appeared in numerous press outlets including the Queens Courier, Desi Talk, The New York Times, Daily News, Kathmandu Post, Diyalo, and Choutari.

Handlin is an animal rights activist, supports immigrant rights, and is an environmental protection advocate. She teaches visual arts and world culture, yoga and energy balancing, and health prevention workshops. Her interest in Buddhist Dharma continues.

Michael Flynn, (M.S., City and Regional Planning ’06)
Early Career Award

Michael Flynn, AICP, LEED-AP, serves as director of Capital Planning and Project Initiation at the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), where he oversees development of the City’s capital street construction program and guides project designs towards safer, greener, and more vibrant streets. He also plays a key role in green infrastructure and climate adaptation strategies within the public right-of-way, including recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy. Prior work at NYCDOT has included developing and co-authoring the New York City Street Design Manual and designing innovative public space, bicycle, and safety improvement projects.

Flynn serves as a visiting professor and faculty advisor at Pratt Institute.

Dwight Johnson, (B.I.D. ‘72)
Distinguished Service Award 

Dwight Johnson is the creative director and president of Dwight Johnson Design. Johnson has spent his professional life making certain people obtain the information they need in the most memorable manner. At Dwight Johnson Design, he sets the standard—creativity, originality, persistence, diligence, attention to detail, and above all else, exemplary customer service. Johnson himself takes the lead on each project that comes through the company. For him, every client is top priority. 

While a professor at Pratt Institute, he was tapped as a special events consultant to Pratt’s president. Johnson’s 20 years of experience at Pratt as an administrator, consultant, and full-time professor endowed him with finely honed managerial, art, and design skills. He continues to be instrumental in bringing to his alma mater a diverse and distinguished group of individuals as honorees or as lecturers.

In 1990, Johnson co-founded and served as president of The Black Alumni of Pratt (BAP) with a small group of proud and determined students to identify and advance scholastic and professional opportunities for Pratt Institute students and alumni of African and Latino descent. BAP’s Annual “Celebration of the Creative Spirit” benefit raises funds for BAP and has become a premier fundraising event in New York City. Since its inception, BAP has awarded hundreds of scholarships to students and developed a healthy endowment.

Yuko Nii, (M.F.A. ‘68)
Community Commitment Award

Yuko Nii, an artist from Tokyo, pursued her career as a painter and also did printmaking, graphic design, set and costume design, and fashion design, all while writing poetry, fiction, essays, and newspaper and magazine articles. She also began to purchase and renovate old buildings to rent space to artists. 

In late 1996, Nii purchased the Kings County Savings Bank building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as the home for the not-for-profit Williamsburg Art & Historical Center (WAH Center). The WAH Center serves as a multicultural art center that aims to bridge local, national, and international emerging as well as established artists of all disciplines to create a more peaceful and integrated world. 

The WAH Center has produced more than 200 fine art exhibitions with more than 3,000 artist participants, and more than 150 performance programs with more than 1,000 performers. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the seventh building to be landmarked in New York City.

To see past awardees click here.

Text: Megan McCurry
Photos: Susan Gold, Reven Wurman, Jenny Jozwiak, Janet Upadhye/DNAinfo, Julie Skarratt, Courtesy of the WAH Center