The Michelangelo D’Onofrio Arts Foundation was established in 2011 by a family of artists to provide a platform for students to devote their artistic talents, develop self-esteem through award recognition, and encourage them to pursue careers in art and design. Awards and scholarships are bestowed on those students who demonstrate exceptional skills in the visual and digital arts in the U.S.A as well as students in schools throughout the world.
A Family Affair
The family is comprised of the father--whose first name really was Michelangelo--his daughter, granddaughter, grandson, and great-grandson, all winners of numerous art and design awards that began in public school and continued throughout their college and professional careers. In essence, this foundation is a form of ‘pay it forward.’
MICHELANGELO D’ONOFRIO, the patriarch, bears the name of the Foundation and although he did not have a career in the arts, he was an outstanding illustrator. He was born in Foggia, Italy, and came to America in 1915. He was 14-years-old and didn’t speak English. After entering the U.S. at Ellis Island and passing all the physicals, he was met by relatives he had never known, who took him to live in Brooklyn. He worked at menial jobs during the day and attended night school classes to learn English and pass the naturalization exams. At age 18, and by then fluent in English, he was sent to live with other unknown relatives in Syracuse, NY. There he found employment with the Syracuse Ornamental Company, married, and raised a family. He continued taking night school courses with the hope of earning a living as an artist, but living through the Depression made those dreams unobtainable. However, he never stopped drawing and found pride and satisfaction teaching his skills to his daughter Joan and grandchildren Susan and Michael. He died in 1991, living long enough to see them achieve success and lucrative careers in the art world.
JOAN D’ONOFRIO, the daughter, is a painter, graphic designer, author, and former Commissioner with the Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County. During her 30-year career in legal and educational publishing, she served as a vice president of Oceana Publications/Oxford University Press, NY; was the production manager of Paradigm Publishing, Inc., Minneapolis; and the art director for EMC Publishing, St. Paul. She owned and operated four Curves fitness franchises throughout the East Bay when she moved to California. In 2008, when her first book was published, she had a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek. Throughout her long career in publishing, she won numerous book design awards, currently produces the weekly Clayton Valley Rotary newsletter, continues to write, paint, and dedicates her energy to growing the Foundation. She received her BFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.
SUSAN BENNETT, the granddaughter, is an experiential design specialist, graphic designer, and communications director at Arrow Signs, Oakland. She was the former project manager at Square Peg Designs, San Francisco; creative director of Shannon-Leigh Associates, San Leandro; and SBC Creative. Her career pursuits encompass art direction, publishing, print production, and marketing that she held in the following positions: graphic designer and marketing director for BSC Art and Print Ltd, London; creative director for Bolger, Inc., Minneapolis; graphic designer and marketing assistant with The Gruzen Partnership/Architects, New York City; art director of Select Magazine Publishers and Distributors, Inc., New York City; and vice president of creative services with Pacific West Public Relations, Los Angeles. Throughout her career, she has won numerous national design awards and attended the Academy of Art, London; School of Visual Arts, Tangiers; the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City; and Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.
MICHAEL SILVER, the grandson and professor of architecture, is pioneering research in the field of sustainable design, digital mapping, robotics, manufacturing, and proprietary software development. He is a LeFevre’ 29 research fellow for The Knowlton School of Architecture in Columbus, Ohio, and a Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan. Along with his teaching responsibilities, he directs a Buffalo/ New York City-based multidisciplinary design laboratory that includes the exploration of computational fluid dynamics simulation and robotic fabrication tools. He won numerous grants and design competitions, authored several books, written copious articles, and holds a Master's Degree in Building Design from Columbia University. He was the director of digital media at the Yale School of Architecture and a design instructor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. His work has been exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan; the IDC in Nagoya, Japan; the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C; the Architecture League in New York; the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, NY; and received his master’s degree from Columbia University, NY.
CJ BENNETT, the great-grandson, received his BFA from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. As an undergraduate, he worked on a variety of short films including The Ribbon which won over 30 awards; Best Animated Short Film from the Five Continents International Film Festival, and Best Animation from the 2019 Indie Short Film Festival. He represented Concord High School at the UC Berkeley Cal Invitational National Debate Tournament, was a volunteer with the Contra Costa County Concord Library where he tutored and developed educational workshops for public school students, and was appointed to the Concord Parks and Recreation Department as a teen representative. Following in his family’s footsteps, he is pursuing a career in the visual and digital arts with an emphasis on 2D animation, film, and art history. As the fourth generation of the D’Onofrio family, Chris is the future of the Foundation.
WHAT WE DO
The Foundation provides art supplies, cash prizes, and scholarships to public school students in an effort to replace the dwindling arts programs.
ART COMPETITIONS AND SCHOLARSHIPS
The Foundation awards cash prizes to all schools that stage and host art competitions. During Covid, contests were held virtually, and in conjunction with Rotary Clubs worldwide. For students interested in pursuing careers in the visual arts, scholarship funds are available.
THE ART IN A BOX PROGRAM
The Foundation is currently in the process of assembling boxes filled with art supplies and will dispense them to 'unsheltered' students living in cars, under tents, in shelters, and in motels. This program will be co-sponsored with 72 Rotary clubs throughout varioous districts. The youth and community services departments of the Board of Educations will distribute the boxes.
TO MAKE A DONATION BY CHECK
Make check payable to: MDAF
Mail checks to:
Michelangelo D'Onofrio Arts Foundation
4425 Treat Blvd, Suite 188
Concord, CA 94521