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Long-time VCCA Fellow Jean Zaleski died last week in Massachusetts. In a way, Jean was the incarnation of the VCCA…her iconic cows, her “winged spirits” of creativity, her long history here. Her paintings hung in the VCCA residence for decades and her sparkling and generous personality graced the lives of all of those who were in residence with her. Jean was in residence at the VCCA 25 times, beginning in 1975 before the artists community even began its incarnation at Mt. San Angelo. She was one of the very first Fellows in residence at Sweet Briar College during a “trial run” for the VCCA’s partnership with the College. She was always quick to open her studio to visitors, to speak on behalf of the VCCA and to step forward to help whenever needed.

For years, she helped to organize the annual Fellows Reunion at Westbeth, allowing us to store reception supplies in her apartment, putting up staff members who needed a place to stay. She opened her arms to us and enveloped us in her embrace. Jean was our Maltese connection. She facilitated the VCCA’s exchange with St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta where her work was featured in a major retrospective in 2002, and her love of the country was palpable. The VCCA now sends two VCCA artists and writers each year to St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, who, in turn, sends Maltese artists and writers to us. Jean made that happen…opening the door of international exchange to many.

Jean‘s last residency at the VCCA was in October 2005..when she was 80. She was still working hard in her studio and very much an active member of this community. We will miss her. Her funeral will be in New York City on May 21, 2010, at 10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Pompei Church, 25 Carmine Street, Manhattan.