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A friendship sculpted in the arts

Alison H. Deem

It’s been said that a friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you today just the way you are. The West Virginia University College of Creative Arts has found that friend in Alison H. Deem.

Deem certainly knows about the college’s past. She has been involved with the WVU arts community for more than 20 years after a recommendation from then-WVU faculty member Joann Siegrist placed her on the college’s visiting committee.

“I’ve had an interest in the arts since high school,” said Deem. “The arts add layers and dimensions to our existence that create meaning and purpose.”

Four deans have come and gone during Deem’s friendship with the college and monumental change has taken place, including the addition of the Art Museum of WVU to campus.

Together with her husband, Patrick, Deem contributed to the construction of the Art Museum of WVU and sponsors the Deem Distinguished Visiting Artist Lecture, the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professorship and the Deem Student Travel Fund.

Now, as a Friend of the Art Museum of WVU, Deem volunteers her time as a docent, giving tours to those who visit.

“I love museums and always thought that I would love being a docent but never had the opportunity due to the lack of museums in the area,” said Deem. “Now, I love having the opportunity to introduce children and adults to the fascinating exhibits we house.” 

A constant in the past and present of the college’s story, Deem is always impressed with the quality of students and faculty.

“The most striking feature of my involvement with the College of Creative Arts has always been the end product that comes from within,” said Deem. “Whether it’s Art & Design, Music, or Theatre & Dance, the college is producing extremely talented professionals that end up with successful careers and faculty who push the boundaries and break the mold.”

When asked about the future of the arts and the college, Deem is optimistic that the joys and wonders of traditional art and mediums will hold their ground in an ever-changing, high-tech and digital world.

“The arts are important because they take us out of ourselves and make us appreciate the genius of creativity,” said Deem. “They make us appreciative of all that is around us.”

Deem also hopes that in 20 more years, the college will again face some of the challenges it does now.

“As many people know, we have plans to expand the Creative Arts Center over the next few years as we are currently out of space,” said Deem. “In 20 years, when the expansion has long been built, I hope we’ll be running out of room again because of the sheer number of students coming to WVU because of their interest in the arts and the high-quality education available.”

In 2013, Deem was named the Distinguished Friend of the WVU College of Creative Arts, a special recognition given to an individual who is not an alumnus of the college but who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment and contributions to both the college and WVU.  

“Alison’s dedication to the College of Creative Arts is undying,” said Dean Paul Kreider. “She has truly helped shape the College’s past, present and future and we are thankful for her extraordinary friendship. I can think of no other person more deserving of this honor.”

This year, the award she received three years ago was renamed the Alison H. Deem Distinguished Friend of the WVU College of Creative Arts in her honor.

“I cannot tell you how much joy it has brought my husband and me to be involved with the College of Creative Arts,” said Deem. “We are grateful to be able to work with the administration, staff and students to help further the college’s missions.”