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Faculty Profile: Nina Bellisio

Associate Professor of Graphic Design

“Art can be so subjective. Thanks to STAC’s size, we are able to focus on each art student and push him or her individually.”

Professor Nina Bellisio got her first camera—a Kodak 110 cartridge camera—at the age of 13. Her first works of art were photos of her sister, dressed up in costumes, fancy clothes and silly outfits.

She says there was no “a-ha moment” when she knew photography and art were going to play a monumental role in her vocation, but she’s had plenty of “a-ha moments” over the course of her career that confirm she’s doing exactly what she’s meant to be doing.

While earning her MFA at the University of California Berkeley, Professor Bellisio was required to student teach. Although her mother was a teacher, Professor Bellisio says teaching was the last thing she thought she’d do for a living. Instead, she thought she might pursue a career in art galleries or museums. But first, she had to get that student teaching out of the way.

“I was quiet in graduate school, so I was very nervous about student teaching and standing up in front of people and planning lessons,” Professor Bellisio explains. “But something just clicked. As soon as I got in front of my classes, I knew teaching was it.”

She joined the faculty at St. Thomas Aquinas College in 2011 after teaching art and design for 10 years at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco. While in California, she says she had her second “a-ha moment.”

“I worked on a photo mentoring program called First Exposures, where we introduced photography to at-risk kids from inner city San Francisco. Seeing an 11-year-old who has had no breaks in life pick up a camera and hear an adult say ‘I’m interested in what you are going to do, and then I’m going to hang your work on the wall,’—seeing that change in them was amazing. I became less interested in my own art than I was in using it as a tool to help others.”

Professor Bellisio continues to help others find their “click.” She says good art curriculum is based on the practical application of learning. She also says that art is far more than learning how to paint or design or take a photograph.

“Art is about problem solving, thinking critically and convincing others that your solution is valid,” Professor Bellisio says. “That kind of learning can apply to anything. As an art major, you’re using the tools of art and design making, but you’re also exercising critical job skills.”

When she’s not teaching, Professor Bellisio directs the College’s Azarian McCullough Art Gallery, where she schedules and runs art exhibits, receptions, lectures, book talks and other cultural events for the STAC community.

“The art program is a special program in a special place,” Professor Bellisio says. “We can tailor our program to the needs and interests of the students we have in our art classes, and we have an enthusiastic faculty teaching students who truly want to learn.”

Certificate, Designing Interactive Multimedia Instruction, Columbia University
MFA, University of California, Berkeley
BFA, Cornell University