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The Works of Henry DiSpirito (1898-1995)



UC's Artist in Residence from 1963 to 1995


Henry DiSpirito
Henry DiSpirito at work.

He began life as a stonemason.

He took his talents to new heights, becoming Utica College's Artist-in-Residence.

He will always be known for his love of art and for the beauty he presented in plaster or clay, wood or oil colors.

Henry DiSpirito, a man of diverse gifts and remarkable experiences, held the title of "Artist-in-Residence" at UC from 1963 to 1995. Born in 1898 in Castelforte, Italy, DiSpirito came to America in 1921 where he found work as a stonemason. Throughout his career as a mason and during his "retirement," he pursued his interest in painting and sculpture. He had a special appreciation for nature and created engaging animals and insects that seem to emerge from the wood or stone he sculpted.


"We can talk about the periods of Henry's development as an artist, but much of his life was spent as Artist in Residence at Utica College, 1963-1995, and for those of us here at Utica College, this period is most important to us. ... To walk into Strebel Student Center was to hear the ring of hammer on chisel. He didn't show up every now and then. He didn't just have a studio here. He was here every day and drew students into his studio, and had them try out the hammer and chisel. He had them scrape some clay from an emerging piece. At one period of time, almost every student at Utica College chiseled a little on The Athlete, the sculpture of the basketball player in Clark Athletic Center. It was Henry's artistry, but he made it seem as if we all had been sculptors."

~ Remarks by David Harralson, associate dean and director of the Frank E. Gannett Library, as given during the Henry DiSpirito Reception, October 1998


His gifts have been widely recognized. In addition to receiving a grant from the National Institute of Art and Letters in 1956, DiSpirito won many prized and honorable mentions at exhibitions. At age 84, he won a prize at the National Academy of Design in New York for his sculpture "Ant." He exhibited in many group shows in major museums, among them the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. His work is included in many private collections.

Locally, DiSpirito's work has been shown extensively, including the 1992 Visual and Tactile Sculpture Exhibition at the Central Association for the Blind, and at Herkimer County Community College. Utica College held a Retrospective Exhibition in 1987, and a Collector's Exhibition in 1992 at the Edith Barrett Art Gallery.

At the commencement ceremony in May 1989 DiSpirito was presented with a Syracuse University Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.

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