September 11, 2016

STUDENT STORIES | Cole Stefan ’18 Designs Ithaca Alphabet Painting

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In an attempt to capture the spirit of Ithaca, Cole Stefan ’18 designed a painting called the “Ithaca Alphabet” that depicts the diversity of the city. The artwork became available for purchase from several vendors in Ithaca this August.

The painting includes one image for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet — including Cornell landmarks like the statue of Ezra Cornell and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Other Ithaca geographic, cultural, and business icons such as the Ithaca Commons, Robert Treman State Park, and the Ithaca Farmer’s Market are also featured in the artwork.

“There’s a lot of community pride [in Ithaca], which is definitely something you need to do the alphabet,” he said. “[The painting contains] what I would think signifies Ithaca. People who have lived here for a long time might have a different opinion.”

A Seattle resident, Stefan says his “outsider’s perspective,” informed the choices of Ithaca locations he used in the alphabet; however he was continuing a family tradition by participating in the alphabet project.

“My mom did the first Seattle alphabet three or four years ago,” Stefan said. “I’ve helped my mom with all of the alphabets, but obviously with Ithaca is there is more of a connection to me.”

Once Stefan chose an Ithaca landmark for each of the letters — a process that he said began about a year ago — he enlisted the help of an artist to paint the images. To find the artist, Stefan said he did not need to look further than his own family.

Stefan’s mother, Melinda Curtin has partnered with nonprofits in the past to create alphabets for several other cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash. and Portland, Ore.

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Stefan is sending a portion of the proceeds to the nonprofits Hospicare and Palliative Care Services.

“Hospicare seemed like a good choice because my grandmother was in a hospice, my girlfriend’s mom works at a hospice in Auburn, New York and one of our vendors, Sunny Day, had a good connection with a hospice,” he said. “It was just meant to be.”

Stefan said he enjoyed learning about Ithaca, adding that contacting Collegetown Bagels and Moosewood — the two businesses represented in the painting — in order to get their approval was perhaps the most challenging part of the process.