CVA Action is a group of concerned alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and community members dedicated to searching out and presenting alternative solutions to the closing of the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul, MN. CVA Action works to provide a bridge between community and institution: facilitating discussion, providing mediation, fundraising, and fostering healthy partnership between CVA and its community supporters. CVA Action believes that the College of Visual Arts is a viable and culturally rich institution that should not be dissolved.
Board of Directors
Ben Levitz – President bio
Ed Charbonneau – VP of Communications bio
Derek Bressler – VP of Student Affairs bio
James O’Brien – VP of Faculty Affairs bio
Jeremy Szopinski – VP of Community Affairs bio
Nyla Niblo – VP of Alumni Affairs bio
Kolean Pitner – VP of Internal Communications bio
Fiona Eustathiades – Secretary bio
Diane Bressler – Treasurer bio
President, CVA Action
Principal, Studio On Fire
Company founder Ben Levitz received his BFA in Communication Design from the College of Visual Arts. He spent nearly a decade as a designer working with design leaders at Kilter, Larsen, and Carmichael Lynch Thorburn design agencies. His creative expertise has focused on design as a branding tool for a large and varied list of national companies with work consistently appearing in award shows and publications of AIGA, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print magazine and Type Directors Annual. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Visual Arts teaching advanced typography course work.
Ben’s tactile design sensibility led to the founding of Studio On Fire. The studio began in 1999 with a vision of uniquely combining two principles: design and craft. With a growing letterpress shop, Ben left the agency world in 2006 to run the studio full time. The Minneapolis studio currently produces it’s own design and letterpress projects in addition to printing work for an impressive list of agencies and design firms worldwide. A collection of this press work is compiled in the 2011 book from Gestalten publishers, “Studio On Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty.”
VP of Communications
Ed Charbonneau is an adjunct faculty member at the College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He received his BFA degree from CVA in 1999, and MFA in Visual Studies from MCAD in 2006. Since 2007, he has taught in the Fine Arts and Foundation departments of CVA. In 2009 he began teaching in MCAD’s Fine Arts department.
For the past 24 years, Ed has been painting commissioned murals and creating large-scale installations of paintings for business, residential, and nonprofit organizations. These paintings cover over 50,000 square feet of wall space throughout the Twin Cites and greater Minnesota. Notable examples of these public artworks can be found at Fat Lorenzo’s Italian restaurant, in South Minneapolis, the world headquarters of the Medtronic corporation, in Columbia Heights, CVA’s gallery at Selby and Western, in St. Paul.
Ed maintains a studio in St. Paul. He has exhibited his paintings in venues such as Minneapolis’ Barnes and Thornburg law offices, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, the Rochester Art Center, and the Speedboat gallery of St. Paul.
VP of Student Affairs
Derek Bressler is currently a junior at the College of Visual Arts. He is studying graphic design and also has an interest in illustration, photography, and business. Derek is an avid entrepreneur who has already run two small businesses while also doing freelance design and illustration projects for clients in the twin cities area. Last summer he ran an exterior residential painting franchise with College Pro Painters and has worked on restoring the beauty to homes from Saint Paul to Elk River. His current project Crystallized Clothing is screen-printed apparel business that formed as an expansion to a class assignment.
VP of Faculty Affairs
James O’Brien is a practicing freelance illustrator and designer who currently chairs the Illustration Department at CVA. He has taught Illustration and Foundation courses for the past 15 years at institutions including CVA, MCAD, Augsburg College, and the College of St. Catherine’s. He holds an MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford. James’s work has received recognition from American Illustration, PRINT, Communication Arts, The Society of Illustrators, 3×3, Creative Quarterly, and AIGA. His clients include AARP, Blue Cross, Colgate, Business Week, Delta Airlines, Entertainment Weekly, Harvard Business Review, Kiplinger’s, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Microsoft, The New York Times, Newsweek, Oxford American, Rand McNalley, The San Francisco Chronicle, Scholastic, Sears, Smithsonian, Target, Time Inc. Publishing, TV Guide, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
VP of Community Affairs
Jeremy Szopinski has exhibited at many venues in the Midwest and nationally including Woodward Gallery, Soo Visual Arts Center, Phipps Center for the Arts, Speedboat Gallery and the Duluth Art Institute. He has also worked as an adjunct faculty member at CVA, as a senior letterpress printer at Studio On Fire in Minneapolis, and has painted murals. He graduated in 1998 from the College of Visual Arts, in Saint Paul, and completed his MFA in painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2010.
VP of Alumni Affairs
Nyla Niblo is a 2000 graduate of the College of Visual Arts with a BFA in Communication Design. Her experience in the Minneapolis design community spans the spectrum from small firms (45° Minneapolis, The Office of Eric Madsen and Olive & Company) to large agencies (Carmichael Lynch Spong, FAME, Yamamoto Moss Mackenzie, PMH and JT Mega). Since 2007, Nyla has been a practicing freelance designer and creative project manager. She is a former CVA Alumni Board member as well as former Vice President of the AIGA MN Board of Directors (2004 – 2006).
VP of Internal Communications
Kolean Pitner is a graduate of Pratt Institute with a master’s degree in communication design. She has over 30 years of experience in graphic design, art direction, and corporate communications with design firms in New York and Minneapolis. She has also taught History of Graphic Design and History of Illustration at the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul since 1986. Her interest in design history motivated her to co-author the book Peter Seitz: Designing a Life in 2007. The book was selected for the prestigious AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers exhibition. She co-curated the exhibition “bRANDs: The Early Years, Branding by Paul Rand, 1941–1955” in 2011 and “The Lustigs: A Cover Story” in 2012 at the CVA Gallery. “The Lustigs: A Cover Story” is now on display at the AIGA Gallery in New York City. She was also selected to be in the “Women in Minnesota Design” exhibit at the CVA Gallery in 2011.
Kolean is a long time AIGA member. She served on the Minnesota chapter’s board as Education Director, organized the Insights Lecture Series, and sat on various committees during the 1980s. In 2008, she became a board member again as Co-Director of Education and Programming Director for the Insights Lectures Series. Prior to the 2008 election, she also coordinated the AIGA’s Get Out the Vote poster exhibitions in the Twin Cities. In January 2009, she helped coordinate AIGA Minnesota’s Art Buddies fund-raiser and mural painting project, which featured the Los Angeles street artist Chase. In 2010, she coordinated a mentor program called Create! Don’t Hate with design students in the Twin Cities and art students at Washburn High School.
Fiona Eustathiades holds a BFA in Communication Design from the College of Visual Arts (2000), and started her own office services consulting business in March 2012 (OFFICE RN – first aid for your office). While in school, she created her art business as Walking Woman Studios. She lectured in business card design for 10 years at Sister Rosalind’s Schools and worked with Banner Engineering as a graphic artist and designer. Since 1998, she has been a moderator for The Gazebo, an online poetry critique site at The Alsop Review, and August of 2012 saw the publication of a dictionary of social psychology with over 300 of her technical illustrations. She spends a lot of her time DIY renovating her small late-Victorian farmhouse, You can see some of her photos at www.mnartists.org/Fiona_Maria_Eustathiades, or https://www.facebook.com/WalkingWomanStudios, and read her blog at http://walkingwomanstudios.com/2012/08/24/hello-world/
Diane Bressler is a parent of current College of Visual Arts student, Derek Bressler. She has a passion for the higher education system of Saint Paul. Diane attended the College of St. Catherine and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Metropolitan State University in 2004. Both her sons attend colleges in Saint Paul: one at CVA and the other at Hamline University.
Diane brings to the CVA Action Board of Directors over 20 years of accounting experience in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, she has nonprofit accounting experience working at the University of Minnesota, Anoka County, as well as several church organizations. Professionally, Diane works with Robert Half Inc.
Photography by Joanna Carina of Carina Photographics