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News . Feature Stories . Straight from the institute of heart

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February 12, 2019

Straight from the institute of heart

Meet three couples who found true love as students at CIA

Chris and Shelley Harvan in the mid-90s

Chris and Shelley Harvan

The Cleveland Institute of Art is where thousands of artists and designers spent countless hours memorizing slides in art history, nailing down perspective drawing, and building skills for what would become their life’s work. Some of them had time for true love, too.

We invited couples to tell us about how they met their life partners while they were students at CIA. Meet a few of them here and enjoy their stories.

Eric ’91 and Katherine (Mason) Blackmore ’92

Eric Blackmore is a designer, photographer and teacher. Katherine is an illustrator and educator. They live in Orlando, Florida.

It was fall term 1989 when Eric, a fourth-year design major, and Kathy, a third-year illustration student, first noticed each other. She was a newbie to the department and “all year kept my eye on the talented hippie across the studio.” On the last day of school, Eric finally asked for Kathy’s phone number at the Dead Pig, the unofficial after-the-Pink-Pig party, traditionally held at 1961 Ford Road. The two are still head-over-heels for each other and just celebrated their joyful 25th wedding anniversary this year.

The couple moved to Orlando in 1995 when Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio hired Kathy to do cleanup animation. She has six screen credits. After Disney closed that studio, she taught art at the elementary and college levels. These days she teaches an after-school art program for children. She is represented as a children’s book illustrator by the Kidshannon agency in New York and has illustrated 16 books.

At Blackmore Design, Eric creates print assets and educational displays mostly for not-for-profit clients, including The Nature Conservancy. He is a professional photographer and teaches digital photography and graphic design at Florida Southern College. He also makes custom hardwood furniture.

The couple has a studio and gallery at the Faith Arts Village in Orlando. They have “cats, fish, and a tortoise named Walter.”

Jon Roll and Nancy Perusek-Roll

Jon Roll and Nancy Perusek-Roll are full-time studio artists living outside of Boston. They graduated in 1979.

During freshman year at CIA, Jon Roll and Nancy Perusek shared many foundation courses and late-night closings of the building. Nancy became a metals major and enamel minor. Jon was a painting major and industrial design minor. After graduation, they spent four months touring Europe together with help from their CIA traveling scholarships. There they visited artist Ken Dingwall’s Edinburgh studio and spent time at the George Jensen factory in Copenhagen.

Job opportunities took the couple to New England. Jon spent many years as gallery manager for MIT’s List Visual Arts Center and as senior collections specialist at the Harvard Art Museums.

Nancy has worked as a product and jewelry designer for many companies, including J. Jill and Macy’s, and as an artist in residence in the Boston public schools. She has also been a studio jeweler and received an individual artist fellowship from the Artists Foundation.

Today, they make their living as full-time studio artists together. Jon creates contemporary icons and jewelry out of enamel, stones and metal. Nancy is a landscape painter, enamelist and jewelry maker. They renovated their mid-century ranch house near Boston to make space for painting, metalworking and enamel.

Chris and Shelley Harvan

The Harvans own Memento Memorials, a Cleveland-based company that creates specialty and custom memorial urns for humans and pets. They graduated in 1997.

At the top of the north staircase of the Gund Building, an over-exuberant goofball found himself face to face with a freshman woman who had a compelling, rainy-day sort of look. She had just crested the landing. He was about to descend when a just-short-of-a-shout declaration of “You’re pretty, Shelley Slick” echoed off the cinder walls and glass block windows.

As they passed each other, her expression acquired a “Get away from me, freak!” look. He responded to her horrified silence with an inner “Whoop, whoop, whoop!” as his nerd cape whipped in the wind created by his rapid flight downstairs.

A world view and courtship style modeled after George Emerson in A Room with a View just wasn’t Shelley’s thing. It would be years before they spoke or made eye contact again, but Chris Harvan never stopped admiring Shelley Slick—albeit from a distance.

Shelley chose Drawing as a major because she was good at it. Chris chose it because he loved the work coming out of the department and saw it as an extremely flexible arena for whatever creative spasm he happened to be having at the moment. As a result, they started being exposed to each other within a wonderful group of people. Chris discovered that Shelley was a kind, reliable person, and his interest in her became earnest rather than fleeting. Shelley saw Chris's potential differently, too, during long studio hours broken up by conversations on the filthy studio couch. By the end of their fifth year, they began dating.

Six years later, they married in the Wade Memorial Chapel at Lake View Cemetery. Chris has had many different art and design related adventures as an employee and entrepreneur. Their jointly owned business designing and fabricating cremation urns for people and pets has been the answer to a longtime burning desire to use their creative skills to do something that truly matters to individuals.

Shelley finds the time to create a handful of pieces of artwork a year despite being a full-time art teacher, parent to two artistically inclined daughters, and a voice of reason for her husband.

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