Meet the new president of the Cincinnati Academy of Art: Joseph Girandola

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Lukas Kalinoski and Chelsey Hughes

Joseph Girandole

As the school year approaches, the Over-the-Rhine’s Art Academy of Cincinnati will welcome Joseph Girandola as its new president. It’s a position he will officially assume on August 1 to succeed Mark Grote, who served as interim chairman after former chairman John Sullivan retired last June. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the Art Academy.

Originally from Baltimore, Girandola was classically trained as a stonemason in Florence, Italy. Although he has since stepped away from the practice, he says his time there allowed him to hone traditional skills.

“Like the act of drawing, the act of putting pencil to paper, you have to be trained in a way that allows you in the future to have the freedom to start breaking the rules,” he says. . “And I think that’s the strength of the Cincinnati Academy of Art.”

Although he is now primarily known for his three-dimensional drawings that use a range of unique mediums, it was stone carving that led him to experiment with the classic DIY Americana Treasure tape.

As Girandola recounts, he would ask his parents to send duct tape from the United States to Italy so he could stick his hands together and create makeshift gloves. The stiffness of the band would help him lock his wrists. (The hammer used in stone carving weighs 32 to 48 ounces, he says, and easily damages the wrist if you don’t use your shoulder and lock your wrist to hammer.)

“At the end of the day, I would cut off those makeshift gloves,” he says. “I loved the look of the duct tape – all the debris from the studio, the dust from the marble and the way they covered up those makeshift gloves. So I started doing kind of drawings with some tape.

His first tape drawing was of the gilded gold baptistery doors of the Duomo in Florence, by Renaissance artist Lorenzo Ghiberti. Other tape works by Girandola include depictions of his first car – a 1980 Ford F250 pickup truck – and a 1968 Mustang, which he restored with his father.

Apart from the staff, one of his favorite pieces is about the Taj Mahal. When he went to India and saw the building, he says he knew he wanted to study how to build it from duct tape in great detail. In the design, the architectural icon is set against the backdrop of an emerging sunset in which bands of red-orange merge with soft blue, both in the sky and reflected in the reflecting pool.

Although he worked in the administration of several institutions – including the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati for seven years – he says he always regularly practiced his art. He attributes this to mentors throughout his life who have done the same. In fact, he considers mentoring students to be part of his practice.

“To see students succeed in creative projects in arts and design, and really lead their lives forward and then become mentors themselves – that’s the point,” he says. “I believe I’m here to mentor and educate in a way that students can become those mentors to others.”

While working with DAAP graduate students, this kind of mentorship is something he says he’s seen often from former Academy of Arts students. Since the Art Academy is located in the heart of OTR, he says his students “know how to engage with an urban environment and solve problems.”

“Sometimes at a large-scale university like the University of Cincinnati, it’s very difficult to navigate and break down those pathways to find the right person to talk to,” he says. “So I leaned on the Art Academy graduates who came to UC to really open up those avenues (for other graduate students).”

When asked what he hopes to bring to the Art Academy as the new president, Girandola cites the importance of engaging with the surrounding community and collaborating with other regional arts institutions and organizations. to position the school as the “main beacon” for creative problem solving. in the city. Inclusiveness and diversity are essential components of this goal.

“Being bold, not being afraid is easy to say, but it’s hard to walk,” he says. “For me, it’s a lot easier when you do it with like-minded people, and like-minded people who are fearless and bold can succeed in this world.”


To learn more about the Cincinnati Academy of Artvisit artacademy.edu.


Mildred D. Field