Long-time Milford art educator retires after 42 years
MILFORD – The Annual Milford Public Schools Art Show has become a favorite event in Milford with hundreds of students and their parents touring the halls of the Parsons Complex to view the student pieces on display. While attendees enjoyed the elementary art show opening in March, it was the formal announcement of long-time art educator Frank Vespi’s retirement that took center stage during the show’s opening ceremony. Mr. Vespi’s retirement will be effective at the end of this school year.
Vespi, a 42-year veteran of the Milford Public School system, was honored by art teachers across the district with the dedication of the Elementary Art Show to him for his selfless service to the students of Milford for more than four decades. To further credit Mr. Vespi for his life’s work, five of his students were selected to have replications of their artwork featured on the covers of the art show programs this year. For those in attendance, it was a teary affirmation of the work Vespi has done for the district and a show of appreciation for this man who has been a friend to many: parents, teachers, and students, alike.
In addition to teaching students in Milford, Vespi served as the department chair for art in the Milford school district for the past 40 years. Vespi was responsible for preparing the annual operating budget for the discipline, ensuring teachers had ample opportunity for professional development and support, and worked with teachers to further refine curriculum and delivery of it to students. He was instrumental in putting together the annual art shows and for making sure art had a ‘presence’ in all student’s lives, grades K-12.
Throughout the span of his career, Mr. Vespi has seen a great many changes take place – all for the betterment of education in our district. At the beginning of his career in 1970, art teachers did not have a dedicated classroom space in which to teach their students. Rather, teachers toured through the building using a cart that carried all the supplies for the lesson of the day. Today, schools have dedicated classroom space for art instruction. In the early part of his teaching career, Mr. Vespi notes kindergarten students did not have art classes at all; art teachers instructed a wider range of students (for example, the elementary configuration back then went up to 8th grade), and computer technology was not even invented yet (and, therefore, neither was graphic- or computer-generated art!).
Mr. Vespi points to several key innovations that have helped drive art forward in Milford over the years. He considers the annual trip to the New Britain Museum of American Art for all 5th grade students in the district a highlight, as well as the development of the District Art Show that occurs each spring in the Parsons Complex. Vespi was instrumental in having an operating kiln and materials housed in every school. He notes that with ever-developing technology, improvements have been seen in new paints, glazes, and other materials over the years and is pleased with the evolution of the field he has seen up to the present.
Vespi notes that one of the most rewarding aspects of his career is seeing dozens of former students who went on to pursue a career in art. In addition, he said it’s an honor that several of his former students are now his colleagues, as fellow art teachers here in Milford.
Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser commented on Vespi’s noteworthy career. “I have known Frank for only one year, but in that short time I have seen evidence of his influence on the quality of the art program in the Milford Public Schools. Students and staff alike have benefitted enormously from his excellent teaching, his passion for art, and his consummate professionalism. Milford is so fortunate to have had Frank dedicate his career to its children.”
Assistant Superintendent Michael Cummings said “Mr. Vespi is a first rate teacher. He has a strong understanding of his content area, a passion for his work, and a love for children. He has always advocated for public displays of student work and has spent many hours crafting our highly successful art displays. We have been very fortunate for his contributions as a teacher and as an instructional leader.”
As for retirement plans, Frank and his wife of 38 years, Pattie, will be leaving Connecticut for the sunny skies of North Carolina. With three grown children now on their own, the couple is ready to embark on the next part of their life’s journey.
Milford Board of Education spokeswoman Kathy Bonetti wrote the above press release.