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Art and Design News

On the Frontlines of Art: MFA Studio Art Alumnus David Keefe ’09

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MFA Studio Art alumnus David Keefe '09

MFA Studio Art alumnus David Keefe ’09 has been working prodigiously as an artist and community leader since completing the Department of Art and Design‘s MFA Studio Art program. As an educator, arts activist, and veteran, Keefe has used his creative and leadership abilities to serve diverse communities and inspire students and veterans alike.

As an artist, Keefe is a prodigious painter, papermaker, and printmaker and his desire to support artists and artist communities led him to co-found the organization Frontline Arts in 2015, and currently serves as its director. The flagship program of Frontline Arts is Combat Paper NJ (CPNJ), a project whose aim is to provide art as a tool for veterans and service members to explore their military experiences.

From 2001 to 2009, Keefe served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and began his studies at Montclair State in 2007, and as a veteran and artist, Keefe has succinctly blended his work as an artist and activist for veteran storytelling.

Combat Paper NJ is a nationally recognized community program and social practice art project that brings together veterans and non-veterans to make paper and art out of military uniforms. Through the program’s residency at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey and through mobile events, Keefe works toward making art an integral part of any community.

Keefe also holds the position of Senior Assistant Dean for Veteran Initiatives at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, where he serves the university’s veteran student community to understand their needs and foster inclusion through initiatives and public programs.

As an adjunct professor of the Department of Art and Design at the College of the Arts, Keefe is able to instruct his students with his ardent passion for art and art making, encouraging students to explore their creative talents in the Combat Paper for Veterans course. It uses the CPNJ model of storytelling and community building and was the only course of its kind in the country. He has also taught painting and various levels of independent study at Montclair State.

Keefe was also recently invited as a distinguished panelist at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. As a key speaker at the weekend craft symposium, he shared his vision on how art and craft can build community.

In an upcoming solo exhibition at Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, from July 1st through October 9th, Keefe will be presenting Transitions: States of War, featuring paintings, prints, and drawings, as well as works from veteran artists of Combat Papers. His work is recognized as that of a social practice artist, as a catalyst that engages the public about veteran issues through art-making.

As a successful MFA Studio Art alumnus, Keefe shared a few words of wisdom to pass onto aspiring artists: “Always do the work, be out in the field creating art, and constantly engaging the topic and issue that you as an artist are trying to tackle.” Keefe’s organization Frontline Arts emphasizes just that, to be on the frontline of art-making.

“My advice to students, especially those coming to Montclair State is to consistently ask challenging questions regarding the themes you are working to address. The MFA program at Montclair State is a great platform for that, as the program emphasizes dedicated time in the studio, to get in there and do the work.”

Learn more about David Keefe’s upcoming solo exhibition from July 1st through October 9th at the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center.

See more of David Keefe’s work at his website, and visit the Combat Paper  website for more information about the program.