St. Vincent monk Brother Mark Floreanini teaches, learns about arts
Brother Mark Floreanini, 60, is a monk of the St. Vincent Archabbey and an associate professor of visual arts at St. Vincent College. A versatile artist, he works in stained glass, fiber, watercolor and other mediums. His work currently is displayed as part of a faculty art exhibition in the St. Vincent Gallery. The Alliance, Ohio, native developed an interest in art early in life, but his religious vocation came later.
Question: How did your career in art begin?
Answer: I won my school's art award in my senior year of high school. I spent all my study halls in the art department. I had learned to crochet when I was 5, and I remember, on the bus in high school, crocheting Jackson Five and Donny Osmond hats for kids.
Q: How did you learn to do stained glass?
A: After high school, I wound up learning how to do stained glass from one of my friends. I said, “Let me see how you do it.” He had a picture of an apple, and he showed me how to cut it out, then he showed me how to wrap it and solder it, and then I had my little glass suncatcher. That was my lesson and I've loved it ever since.
Q: What came next?
A: I decided I needed to get away from small towns and moved to Dayton, Ohio, and started working in stained-glass studios. I wound up working with a business person and salesman, and he suggested moving back to this area because he was from here. I moved here and opened up a studio in Derry in 1986.
Q: How did you go from that to the religious life?
A: I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic grade school, but I was not a churchgoer. I was working day and night at the stained-glass studio. I was happy doing what I wanted to do, but there was something missing, so I started coming to St. Vincent.
I started going to church every week and getting more and more involved in the parish. It was like a snowball, I just wanted to be here all the time.
I was 38 when I started to seriously discern if I wanted to (become a monk). Their cutoff year is 40, so I was getting close. I entered in 1997 and took first vows in 1998. I had an associate's degree in art from community college in Dayton, so when I got here, the abbot asked if I wanted to finish my degree. I wound up majoring in art here and graduated in 2001.
Then I went to seminary and got a master's degree in monastic studies. When I finished, I told the abbot I was thinking about getting an art degree, and he said no. Then I showed him slides of my work and he said OK.
Q: What came next?
A: We have a priory in Savannah, and we needed monks down there. Savannah College of Art and Design is right there, so I applied and they accepted me. I graduated in 2005 with a painting MFA and started working here right after that.
Q: Do you have a favorite medium?
A: I like to experiment with everything: crocheting, pottery, wood-carving, drawing, painting, pastels. I've done stained glass the most and I like doing it, but I like fiber arts, too. With stained glass, there are so many steps to the process that it's not boring, and I like that about it. With fibers, you can sit and relax and watch TV. You're doing the same stitch over and over again and you don't have to think about it. Fiber art is meditative.
Q: What are you teaching this semester?
A: I have senior studio, 2-D design and clay and pottery.
Q: It sounds like you've found your perfect niche.
A: Being a professor here, I get to take workshops in the summer and I get to learn even more, and then I get to bring what I learn back to my students. Over the summer, I got to take a rug-weaving workshop in New Hampshire with Jason Collingwood, a famous rug weaver from England.
Coming to the monastery and being a monk — I remember when I entered, I was thinking, “Why doesn't everybody want to do this?” It's a pretty wonderful life and I thank God for all of it, because He's been in all of it, and that's why I'm giving the rest of my life to Him.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or email@example.com.