Spring on the York College campus

A Gift of Art from Ivan Villalba

“It beautifies the campus, it lifts up, and celebrates the gifts and success of an outstanding alumnus, and it makes a declaration of the College’s commitment to the arts.”

This summer, Ivan Villalba ’85 donated a 5-foot-tall, 18-foot-wide painting titled Echte Welt 2020 (Real World 2020) to York College. While the original theme was Globalization prior to the pandemic, the piece evolved during the wake of COVID-19. Villalba stayed true to his style and delivered an abstract work that can now be found in Grantley Hall. 

Villalba pursued a bachelor’s degree in Marketing at York College, where he saw a potential career opportunity for his creative abilities. “I was fortunate to have studied marketing that taught me fundamentals that I apply today,” he says. 

While attending York College, Villalba was a member of the Marine Corps Reserves in Harrisburg and after graduating, he continued in the military as a Marine officer. It was in the 1990s after his honorable discharge that he picked up his paintbrush and pursued commissioned work opportunities. 

Now, living in Louisville, Kentucky, Villalba runs Ivann LLC. During summer 2019, he contacted the College and offered to create a custom painting. Glenn Miller, Senior Director of Philanthropy, spoke with Villalba to determine the theme, the size, and future placement of the art. “A gift like this is important on several levels,” Miller says. “It beautifies the campus, it lifts up, and celebrates the gifts and success of an outstanding alumnus, and it makes a declaration of the College’s commitment to the arts.” With York College becoming an internationally renowned institution, the theme was selected to be Globalization with all its pre-pandemic virtues. Villalba, having the background to provide the art including an MBA in International Business from the University of Miami, and having traveled extensively, felt well versed for the task. 

Just as he acquired all of his supplies for the project including a specialized frame and canvas from Canada, in late March Villalba became sick with COVID-19. While Villalba was able to avoid hospitalization, he says, it was impossible for him to paint. It wasn’t until the first week of May that he felt well enough to pick up his brush. On July 28, 2020, the completed painting was installed in Grantley Hall. Even though Villalba is unsure if his illness influenced the work, his wife Dana says, “It definitely did. His original plan was different from the completed painting. He never intended the painting to be about himself, but it is an impression from an artist who was impacted by the virus.” 

“I hope that anyone who walks by the painting, who stops to view it, or routinely goes by, can take whatever they need from it as art is intended to be,” he says. “That’s my gift. And I’m grateful that the College was so open to receiving it. The beauty of having the ability of merging art and marketing is the primary skill I learned at York College.” 

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