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Development professional paints plein air, plus: got art!

June 9, 2013

By Kate Atkinson’15

As a development professional in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations who deals with “major gifts” (those exceeding $25,000), Donna Magnani helps alumni match their giving with departments or programs that they want to support at Beloit.

“I paint a picture of how the college is now for them,” she says of her interactions with alumni. “Another important part of my job is being able to listen and hearing their stories.”

When she’s not painting figurative pictures of Beloit College, in her downtime Magnani paints with acrylic. She received a degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked as an art teacher before she had children.

In 1999, Magnani had the opportunity to participate in an artist’s residency in Montecastello di Vibio, Italy, an experience she describes as transformative. She spent a month in the small medieval town hiking for miles to find scenic vistas to paint “en plein air,” or in the out-of-doors, and enjoying the company of like-minded people.

Magnani liked the trip so much that she went again in 2000, and in 2002 she started her own program that brings artists to paint in Italy. Every other year Magnani arranges a trip for herself and a group of artists to spend 10 days in a rented villa in the medieval town of Barga. For each trip, she hires a painting teacher to lead them. Many of the artists focus on the landscapes that Barga is known for, but Magnani also enjoys painting architectural elements of the town.

Since she started facilitating the trips, Magnani has come to know the people and she looks forward to reuniting with them during each visit. She also loves providing an experience for other artists that was so beneficial for her.

“I get to watch people change and absorb the setting” says Magnani of the program’s benefits. And of course, she gets to paint while doing it.

Fittingly, for six years the city of Beloit has hosted its own plein air painting competition, this year coinciding with a larger series of ars-centric events called got art! The plein air competition started last Wednesday (June 5), which is why you might have spotted artists like Magnani toting easels and art supplies across town and campus. The series also includes the opening of the 56th Annual Beloit & Vicinity Exhibition at the Wright Museum of Art, with a reception slated for 4:30 p.m. Saturday (June 15).

For a full schedule of got art! events, click here.