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Art gallery opens to honor Westfield State alumna

Date: 11/14/2014

WESTFIELD – Westfield State University hosted an artist’s reception for “Emilee’s Art Dream: In Her Honor, An Exhibition for MS Awareness” Nov. 6 for an alumna who passed away in September 2013.

Emilee Gagnon graduated in 2013 and was an art major who lit up the campus with her unique and vibrant spirit, according to her former professors. Among her passions was raising awareness for multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that impacts her grandmother. It was this passion that led her to cycle cross-country to benefit MS. She was killed on the trip after being struck by an SUV in Ohio.

The gallery in her honor serves to remember Gagnon and the way she lived by combining two important parts of her life. The exhibit features her work, including her senior honors project, tribute pieces by faculty and students and the work of artists who have been impacted by MS.

“The pieces of this art show are meant to pay tribute and represent all these facets of her unique spirit,” Professor Vanessa Diana said.

Art Department Chair Jamie Wainright worked closely with Gagnon throughout her time at Westfield State and said that she continues to touch the lives of those who knew her and even those who did not.

"It became this rippling effect of energy from students who didn’t know her, from faculty that heard about her, from faculty that worked with her and that’s the kind of impact she had,” Wainright said. “She was just this bright light in a lot of people’s lives.”

Despite being “absolutely brilliant,” according to Diana, her professors said she was modest, and if she could see the gallery herself, Wainright said that would be reflected.

“I think she would be humbled and I think she would be overjoyed that her parents have this memory of her to hold on to,” Wainright said.

In the end, preserving that memory is what the exhibit is meant to do.

“That’s what all of this is about. It’s about her legacy and remembering her and celebrating her as a role model for our younger students because she really embraced it all,” Diana said. “We all aspire to live life that fully.

The exhibit is in the Arno Maris Gallery and is open Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Those looking to make a donation to the Emilee Dawn Gagnon Memorial Scholarship can contact Lisa McMahon at the Westfield State Foundation at 485-7360.