Don ZanFagna (BFA 1953), well-known artist and academic, died Wednesday, October 23rd at the age of 84.
Born in Providence, Don grew up on the ocean in Saunderstown, RI. This sea environment always remained an important influence in his work. A working artist since 1950, Don held advanced degrees from the Universities of Michigan and Southern California in Painting, Art and Architecture. During his youth he excelled in sports, becoming the star quarterback at U of M and being scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers because of his 3rd base and batting excellence. He served during the Korean War as a fighter pilot- radar dome commandant and was honored for saving the lives of a pilot and a General aboard a lost plane. He received a Fulbright/Italian Government Grant for study in Italy 1956 ‑7. Don and Joyce, who had met at the University of Michigan, were married in Rome in 1957.
During the 1970’s and 80’s he held the Department Chair in Art at Rutgers University and was sought after to lecture in ecological design, as well as being one of the principal speakers at the first Earth Day in NYC. He was visiting Eco-Architecture Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY. His work is represented in private collections and has been exhibited in over 200 galleries and museums in the US and Europe. The White Gallery on Sullivans Island, owned by his nephew and niece, Everett and Joanna White, had ongoing retrospectives of ZanFagna’s work from October 2009 to 2011. His life and work was the subject of a PDA documentary, ‘Rediscovering ZanFagna,’ shown at the Charleston International Film Festival in May 2011 and won the Best Documentary Award. Recent one-man shows were held at the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado and the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida. Charleston was able to appreciate his work in an exhibition showing his Pulse Dome series which took place at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston SC, October 19 — Dec 8, 2012.
During the last five years, The Don ZanFagna Foundation team has inspired art lovers, many in the Charleston area, to collect his work. His legacy will continue as new shows are upcoming in Art Basel, Miami and NYC. Progress can be followed by visiting http://donzanfagna.org .
Don is survived by his wife of fifty-six years, Joyce; his great nephew and niece, Everett and Joanna White and their four children of Summerville, SC; his uncle Joseph Zinno of Federal Way, WA; nephews, David DiCarlo and Ronald Carchia and niece Linda Rochetti and her son from Providence RI; niece, Nancy Roberts and her two daughters of Southwick, Ma; as well as many cousins in Providence, Rhode Island, Florida, California, Northeast US, and Italy. His wife Joyce’s family in Georgia and Michigan also have counted Don as an important relative in their lives. Don joins the spirit of his son Robert Piero, born in California in 1959, whom he and Joyce lost to Hodgkin’s Disease in 1989. No services are planned at this time, however, in memoriam, donations can be sent to The Don ZanFagna Foundation, 201 Central Avenue, Summerville, SC 29483, to help perpetuate the legacy of his ideas and work through museum and gallery exhibitions, books, seminars, environmental architectural projects and much more.