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Donna Moran

MFA, Fine Arts 71; Chair of Fine Arts, 2001-2012

I was in the MFA program from 1969 to 1971 and we spent a lot of time either making anti-war posters or going for beers at Eric’s. When we weren’t doing either of those activities, we were entrenched in our studios working and talking about our work. It was a great time to be a graduate student.

My best memories were hanging around with Anne Breslin, Janet Gray and Joe Hildreth.

My worst memory was realizing, after silk screening 200 6-color 18” 24” posters for my MFA exhibition (post card announcements had yet to be invented), that I had spelled “exhibition” and “candidate” wrong. Mistakes that I never made again. One the other hand all 200 were taken as keepers by other students in two days, so I guess it was a success anyway.

It is nice to have the institutional memory of how barren the main campus was against how wonderful it is today.


Frank H. Frost

BS Architecture

  Like everyone else,  I am sure,  I have a thousand memories—- all good !  Experiences,  names, faces, bodies, words, images, views, tastes, smells, sounds, the air, the light, even the darkness.  Two,  from the same Place and close in Time,  come from the PI Shop,  1963.
  One, was a large poster from a MOMA Painting (I cannot recall the Artist) of a (loaded) Pistol,  blood-red background, aimed directly into the eye of the viewer.  For me,  it was THE MESSAGE of Pratt:  Design, especially Design Criticism,  is a Life or Death Proposition.  Nothing less; Nothing in-between.
  The second,  a similar large hand-made poster from an inspired student, name unknown,  of the long passage by Henry Miller,  from I believe,  Tropic of Cancer,  which is His own personal Declaration of Freedomfrom an oppressing status quo, catapaulting him to Paris.
  Today,  BROOKLYN is that Paris !!    Thank you.

Thomas Henrickson

B.F.A. Graphic Arts and Illustration

  In September 1961 I began Foundation year at Pratt.  My class had about 25 students, the majority of us recent high school graduates from the New York City area. The balance of the students were from other states; one student was on scholarship from Japan.  From the start it was clear that first year at Pratt was going to be an intense, stimulating, provocative and highly competitive experience.  This translated into working late into the night; every night.
    At the end of first year I was accepted into the Graphic Arts and Illustration Dept. and continued in this area until graduation in 1965.  The curriculum included: painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, typography, graphics and illustration, photography, art history. 
    This department had evolved in the early 1940’s under the influence of many European artists including Fritz Eichenberg, a strong proponent of printmaking and the art of the book.  Students learned to set type by hand and the
use of a proofing press. In 2nd year woodcut and wood engraving was the focus.  There was a studio dedicated to lithography and etching that was part of the 3rd and 4th year curriculum.  This studio had open access in the evenings and was often crowded as work in this medium was both popular and time consuming. Painting studio in 4th year was 6 hours.  Richard Lindner and Lucian Krukowski were influential painting instructors who were encouraging mentors for many in senior year studio.

Laura Lisa Smith

Industrial Design 1977

During my second semester Junior year, I entered and won a competition at Pratt for the design of a traveling exhibit to tell the story of Weeksville, a thriving African American community in Bedford-Stuyvesant.The exhibit appeared in New York’s Metropolitan Museum for the entire month of February 1976.  The new Weeksville Heritage Center in Bedford- Stuyvesant still employs my traveling exhibit design around the country to tell the story of this thriving African-American community in Brooklyn. I was so very honored to work with Joan Maynard, Founder of the The Weeksville Heritage Center, which is a precursor of the new African American Museum in Washington DC.

Laura Lisa Smith
Laura Lisa Smith

Jean Davis

M.P.S. Art Therapy '93; Chair, Creative Arts Therapy

Among many, many fond memories at Pratt, I particularly remember Arthur Robbins and Elaine Rapp conducting the Creative Arts Therapy annual “EXPO”.  Their enthusiasm was contagious and I hold the experience of their energy close to my heart.

T Kent Hikida

Associate Professor, Construction Management, School of Architecture

September 11, 2001
I was on my way to a meeting at Pratt and thought it strange that commuters were crowding onto a Brooklyn-bound A train at the World Trade Center station. I had no idea what was transpiring above my head as we shuttled underground.
The faces that greeted me when I arrived at Higgins hall were ashen. We gathered around the digital hearths that projected images of the inconceivable. A former student who worked in Manhattan and lived in Staten Island, found her way over the Brooklyn Bridge back to Pratt. It was the only place she could think of to find comfort and refuge.
As architects we understood the symbolism of the destruction, and we knew, even then, that we would be strong and that we would rebuild.

Barbara Klein

M.F.A. Painting, 1983

I will never forget Phoebe Helman, my painting advisor. A tiny, chain-smoking woman. When she liked something, she’d say “That painting is dynamite” but her face would be without expression. Our class adored her, some copied her way of walking, talking, smoking, without realizing that we were doing it.  A male student once placed a rose at her feet during class. She was a serious artist whose own work felt like “visual food”.  I needed to see it and absorb it. She demanded a high level of commitment from us.  Didn’t tolerate fools. George McNeill was my thesis advisor.  He’s memorable for his humor, his impishness, his agelessness, his wonderful paintings and his irreverence.  He not only taught art history but had a firsthand knowledge of much of what he taught about late modern art. Late in life his career took an upswing and I thought his paintings were better than ever, freer than ever.  It made me understand that for some artists, like George, a sense of freedom happens late in life.  That’s absolute freedom and it makes for incredible art. I felt that Pratt wasn’t just a school, but a sort of art monastery where students learned how to be unrelentingly critical of their own work, how to think, and how to be practicing professionals from a group of wonderful, committed artists/teachers, who taught us by example, that artmaking wasn’t just about monetary success. That it was a belief system which required hard work, honesty and integrity.  By today’s standards, that may seem naive and romantic, but it’s a life line for those of us still making art.

Kevan Nitzberg

Art Education, 1972

I graduated from the Pratt Art Education program in 1972, near the tail end of the Vietnam War. I remember the strikes on campus at the teach-in sessions that were held on campus in opposition to the war.  I remember the train ride down to Washington DC that was funded by Pratt to help students get to the protest march being held at the time that I participated in. Several of my classmates had been in Vietnam and had come back with very traumatic tales to tell. I also remember the Myrtle Avenue El and the trains roaring by and knew someone who had been in Nam and lived right by the elevated train line and when hearing the trains, would awake thinking that there was incoming mortar fire coming in. As defining as those years were, education at Pratt took a back seat to the greater education going on around us.

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email us your story

If you would prefer to submit a memory from your time at Pratt via email, you may do so here. Please note that all submissions will be reviewed by the Pratt 125th Anniversary editorial team for possible inclusion in Institute publications and in the installation titled Recall by artist Jean Shin.

Recall: Jean Shin JEAN SHIN: RECALL

Join acclaimed artist, alumna, and faculty member Jean Shin in creating a major public art project on Pratt’s Brooklyn campus. To learn more and participate, visit the Recall project site.