Alum Matt Lucash Finds Path to Artistic Life;
Gives Back as MCCC Faculty Member


When Matt Lucash began his education at Mercer in 1999, his plan was to study music. An accomplished guitarist, this concentration seemed the natural choice. It took the advice of some engaged professors before Lucash decided to shift gears to realize his potential in another area - as an artist.

Having been taught by his artist grandmother since he was a toddler, Lucash's artistic talent came easily to him. Before even changing his major, he was selected for Mercer's Art History Award and the James Colavita Memorial Scholarship for continuing art students. "Art was second nature to me," Lucash recalls. "I didn't even consider it as a career path until I spoke with one of my art professors, Mel Leipzig."

Adjunct faculty member and alum Matt Lucash ('01) with his ink drawing, "A Majestic Apparition of Death," at the 2009 Mercer County Artists exhibit.

With the goal of transferring to a four-year school, Lucash prepared by taking a variety of classes at Mercer, but it was the courses in art and art history that stood out. "All of them were really good. Of course, I loved Mel's classes," he says.

Lucash recalls his volunteer work at the MCCC Gallery "as good as any internship. You make local connections. You get to meet artists," he explained. One artist who exhibited at the Gallery was a faculty member at Pratt Institute in New York City, where Lucash ultimately transferred and earned his bachelor's degree. "That artist gave me lots of feedback and direction."

Graduating with an AFA from MCCC in 2001, Lucash moved to New York City to immerse himself in his Pratt education and urban life. He says that he was ready for the challenge. "I went to Pratt with a broad range of knowledge. Mercer prepared me 110 percent." He majored in art history, because "that's harder to study on your own," he explained, and minored in painting.

In numerous ways, Lucash's MCCC background came into play. He recalls his fellow Pratt students taking a field trip to the Gallery Henoch to see the Mel Leipzig show in 2002. "They were very impressed that I had studied under Mel, and that Mel was a regular guy I had known since I was 17," Lucash says.

After Pratt, Lucash continued for his master's degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Studying in a select program with only 16 other students, he was able to develop a major unique to his interests, which included installation art (site specific), painting and sculpture.

Leaving city life behind, Lucash returned to central New Jersey in 2005 and has been making and teaching art ever since - at MCCC, Rider University and Burlington County College. He believes that the Fine Arts program at MCCC stands out.

According to Lucash, it's the quality of Mercer's instructors combined with personal attention that makes the difference. He notes that, often, community colleges students don't know what they want to study and are looking for an instructor to pick up on something that's special about them. "Students may have five or six paths in front of them and they don't know which way to go. What helped me so much was the individualized attention and direct feedback. It was teachers putting time in," Lucash stresses.

"As an instructor at the college I want to give back some of what I got," he says. "I like to talk with students one-on-one and to offer guidance about the classes they will need for transfer. I want to help prepare them for the real world."

As an adjunct professor, Lucash still has time to create his own art. Dividing his talents between painting and conceptual projects, he is currently immersed in building a gallery of sorts in the basement of his house. "I plan to have one-day 'open studios' so that artists can showcase their work and get feedback and criticism from the local arts community. I call it my 'project room,'" he says.

Lucash is also having the satisfying experience of seeing his art exhibited at the gallery where he once worked as an intern. In 2008 and 2009, his works were selected for the Mercer County Artists show at the MCCC Gallery; both years, his submissions earned Honorable Mentions.

He's done a full circle personally as well. Having grown up in Hamilton, he has now moved back to his hometown with his wife and daughter. Their second child is due in July. He appreciates the cohesiveness of the local arts scene here, a quality that gets defused in larger urban settings. His growing connections include Artworks, the Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA), and participation in local exhibitions. Teaching, he finds, provides the most direct link to the arts community.

Will he be the inspiration in his daughter's artistic life that his grandmother was in his? "Well, I don't want to force it on my daughter, but she comes to gallery openings with me and she likes seeing my work hanging there," Lucash says. "We'll see."

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