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Award-winning art student dies: Memorial to be held Tuesday on campus


By Summer Santangelo
News Editor

Cuesta art major Simon Tomassian, who was recognized for his innovative creations, recently died.

A memorial will be held in his honor on May 9 next to the Cuesta art building.

Tomassian, known for his enthusiasm and as a hard working, creative student, pushed the boundaries of expression, according to Cuesta art instructor, Margaret Korisheli.

Tomassian, who was in his late 50s, took a special interest in ceramics and sculptures and had recently been awarded a full scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute for fall 2017.

Korisheli recalls Tomassian “beaming” when he told her he had been accepted.

Most of his work was done with the use of recycled industrial materials and led him to having a sense of enthusiasm about his work, according to Korisheli, who had Tomassian for several classes.

“His enthusiasm was contagious,” Korisheli said.

While attending Cuesta in 2013, Tomassian won the Helen Novy Art Award for Excellence in Studio Class Performance for his work in ceramics.

Within the same year he had a sculpture on display, on Cuesta’s campus, called, “Privacy vs. National Security.” This sculpture was part of an installment done by two beginning sculpture classes that were instructed by Korisheli.

Tomassian influenced the lives of other students including Billy Holtz, a studio arts major, who credits Tomassian with helping him find his major at Cuesta.

“I was originally a kinesiology major and was going to school to use my GI Bill, but without any specific goals or passion,” Holtz said. “Simon changed that. […] The next semester, I changed my major to Studio Arts.”

The two first connected over their mutual bond of serving in the Navy, after Tomassian recognized the Blue Angels jacket that Holtz was wearing. Holtz further recalls Tomassian telling him he served aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in the 1980’s.

Holtz went on to characterize the type of person Tomassian was in his eyes.

“He was very caring, motivated and a positive role model,” Holtz said. “He loved many of his teachers.”

Tomassian was an even mannered man and would not usually get upset, according to Holtz.

“He rarely had anything negative to say about anyone unless that person was trying to prevent him from creating whatever type of art piece he was working on, then he really had something to say,” Holtz said.

Tomassian left a huge impression on Holtz during their time together at Cuesta.

“He was a genuine friend and a great human being and I am extremely lucky to have met him,” said Holtz. “He really, truly did change the course of not only my Cuesta education but my life and I will miss him dearly.”

For those who would like to pay their respects to Simon Tomassian, an informal memorial will be held at Cuesta on Tuesday, May 9 at 11:30 a.m. on the grass area by the Fine Arts building, near room 7125 (the path between the cafeteria and the humanities forum).