Sewickley-based nonprofit aims to support the arts, preserve woman’s legacy

Monday, December 3, 2018 | 6:03 AM


Not long after her daughter, Tess Senay Raynovich, tragically passed away in October 2012, Nancy Kirkwood’s friends helped her start a memorial fund.

Raynovich, who was 20, cared most about art and the earth, so Kirkwood didn’t have a hard time deciding where the money would eventually go.

Several thousand dollars accumulated in a bank account pretty quickly, said Marc Kennedy, a friend of Kirkwood’s who helped start the fund. Kennedy and his wife, Diana Schwab, did most of the initial planning work, Kirkwood said, and by the spring of 2013, they had formed a nonprofit called the Tess Senay Raynovich Art & Earth Fund.

The nonprofit supports environmentally conscious art and is based in Sewickley, where Raynovich, an artist, grew up.

“She took art lessons from when she was a little girl in that town, and it was a place where somebody like her was really very cherished, I mean people let her know while she was alive how special she was,” said Kirkwood, who now lives in Pittsburgh.

The Art & Earth Fund made an impact on Sewickley from the very beginning. In June of 2013, the nonprofit held one of its first activities, an eco-art camp, at the Sewickley Valley YMCA, Kirkwood said. That year, the six-member board also started the Tess Senay Raynovich Art Scholarship, which supports graduating seniors from Quaker Valley who plan to pursue further education in the arts.

The $1,000 scholarship usually goes out to one student each school year. Kennedy, a board member, said he doesn’t know of any similar scholarships given out at Quaker Valley.

“I’m going to estimate that there’s 15 scholarships given out, maybe as many as 20, and I still think this is the only scholarship for art,” said Kennedy, of Sewickley.

Tieg Harte, 22, won the scholarship in 2015 and has used the money to cover his educational expenses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

“I used the money from the scholarship to buy the required laptop for The School of the Art Institute. I am currently entering my final semester at SAIC, where I’ve been focusing on painting and ceramics,” Harte said.

Much of the money for the scholarship and other Art & Earth Fund initiatives comes from an annual fundraiser, held at Double Wide Grill “close to Tess’s birthday,” in May, Kirkwood said. Attendees pay $20 and receive a meal, along with opportunities to purchase art.

Kennedy said about 100 people, including Raynovich’s former friends and their parents, typically attend.

“What Tess would love the most is these generations getting together and sharing some time together,” he added.

Thanks to donations, the Art & Earth Fund has grown significantly and now has approximately $20,000 at its disposal, according to Kennedy.

Kirkwood, the nonprofit’s director, mentioned two new initiatives this money will help support.

Artists will soon be able to submit their work for the Tess Senay Raynovich Eco Art Prize, which will be given out in April 2019, to coincide with Earth Day. Next year, the Art & Earth Fund board also plans to install a memorial bench with an eco-inspired design along Beaver Street, in Sewickley.

Kirkwood expressed her desire to offer the prize and a community bench donation each year, along with the scholarship. She said these initiatives cover all aspects of her nonprofit’s mission.

“The prize not only supports the winning artist, but also provides a free public workshop by the winning artist and a two month exhibit of the six finalists, supporting both artists and communities. The Tess is Love Bench Project, our most ambitious project, (is) a gift to community and public transit users that will remind everyone of (Tess’s) love of art and our natural resources,” Kirkwood said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.