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In the Loop
Alumni News : Apr 10, 2019

Sculpture alumna and dean emerita honored with Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board Awards

By Emma Friedman (BFA Acting '22)

School of Art + Art History alumna Leslie Tharp (BFA ‘08) was recently awarded the Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board's Individual Artist of the Year Award.

Tharp earned a BFA from the University of Florida sculpture program. Since graduation, she has worked tirelessly to establish herself within the Gainesville art community. Through various public and private artworks and commissions, Tharp has achieved her goals and even opened her own metal shop and practice here in Gainesville.

“She was energetic, thoughtful, and excellent student and artist in all my classes,” Associate Professor Sean Miller said. “It is a pleasure to see her receive this acknowledgement for her ongoing artistic and sculptural achievements.”

Tharp was humbled by the nomination and said winning the award was very exciting and unexpected.

“I've found so much fulfillment working in the metalworking medium—always being challenged and always inspired by it,” she said.

Tharp now shares her knowledge of blacksmithing with the community through regular hands-on workshops and large public art projects.

“I owe many thanks to the University of Florida for enabling me to explore such a variety of materials and processes in school,” she said, “and for guiding me to find the voice within my work.”

Alongside Tharp, Dean Emerita Lucinda Lavelli received the Lennie Kesl Lifetime Arts Award for her significant and sustained contributions to the arts over a number of years.

“I was completely surprised and honored,” Lavelli said. “Lennie Kesl was a beloved creative member of this community and with that knowledge I was so pleased to accept this award recognizing my works' continuation of the link between the college and the city.”

Dr. Tony Kolenic, assistant dean for research, technology and administrative affairs, said Lavelli has a genuine passion for the arts and for people.

“Lucinda is someone who cares about our community,” Kolenic said, “and, whether we know it or not, has worked as a quiet champion on all of our behalfs."