Staff at University of Virginia’s Department of Art are planning to honor the life and work of D’Sean Perry, who was a studio art major in the College of Arts & Sciences and was on track to graduate this May before he was shot and killed alongside two other students on Nov. 13.
“I’ve been motivated to do this because I feel like he really was deprived,” Victoria Valdes, assistant director of the visual resources collection at UVa, told The Daily Progress. “He was about to graduate. He was an absolutely fantastic student. He should have had that UVa graduation experience. He should have had that senior show. He deserved it. He worked for it. He put in the labor and he should have had it. I feel like I owe it to him to see that happens.”
The only trouble is that Valdes, who is spearheading two new memorials for display on UVa’s Art Grounds, needs more examples of Perry’s art to feature in the display.
“He did a lot of work around the Art Department and he was very, very popular,” said Valdes. “Very well-liked in the Art Department, so I have no doubt that there is someone with 60 photos of him and his work on their phone.”
Valdes and other Art Department staff plan to honor Perry by sponsoring a decorative bench outside of the Culbreth Road parking garage where he was shot as well as designing a memorial banner featuring Perry’s own artwork that will fly on one of the lamp posts on Arts Grounds.
Valdes has received permission from Perry’s father, Sean Perry, to create the banner, but she is still searching for at least four pieces or photos of the late Perry’s artwork to add to the banner.
Representatives for the Perry family did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Progress.
However, Valdes said she has been in constant communication with Perry’s father, who is "enthusiastic” and equally eager to see more of his son’s work.
Valdes said the department will also present D’Sean Perry’s art in a memorial show when the rest of the fourth-years have their final showcase at the end of the spring semester.
D’Sean Perry was one of three student-athletes shot and killed when a student gunman opened fire on a chartered bus of roughly 25 students returning from a field trip with the African American theater class on Nov. 13. Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler were also killed.
Former athlete and fellow student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. has been charged with their murder.
At a Nov. 15 press conference after the shooting, Cavalier head football coach Tony Elliot described D’Sean Perry as “very, very artistic.”
“He could draw. He could shape pots with clay. He loved music. Very, very cultured, a well-rounded artist, a great teammate,” Elliott said of the late linebacker. “He had a sense of humor that was one of a kind.”
Those who knew D’Sean Perry well have made it clear that his passion was split between being an artist and being an athlete.
During the spring semester last year, Valdes taught a photogrammetry session to D’Sean and his peers who were taking a digital art class. She said that she usually advises students to use simple and accessible items when they first start their first photogrammetry projects, which is the process of creating 3D models from photos.
“He went so far above and beyond that and he did an entire bust self-portrait,” Valdes said. “He had help from his roommates who did the photography, but he created it himself, which is extremely unusual for that class. I’ve never seen another kid do that, and I’ve been teaching for years.”
After learning of the shooting and D’Sean Perry’s death, Valdes 3D printed 135 copies of the bust, which stands a few inches tall, and gave them to D’Sean Perry’s parents and the Cavaliers who played alongside him.
The commemorative bench on Arts Grounds is already in the early planning stages while Valdes awaits university approval to install the banner. She said that the directors of the Fralin Museum of Art, Ruffin Gallery and Drama Building, among others, have welcomed the idea of placing a banner outside of their buildings.
Those with copies or photos of D’Sean Perry’s artwork they wish to share can contact Valdes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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