Elmhurst College remembers artist, educator Suellen Rocca

  • Longtime Elmhurst College curator and artist Sueellen Rocca died March 26 at the age of 76.

    Longtime Elmhurst College curator and artist Sueellen Rocca died March 26 at the age of 76. Courtesy of Bob Coscarelli Photography

Daily Herald report
Updated 3/30/2020 5:44 PM

Suellen Rocca is being remembered this week as an artist, curator and longtime Elmhurst College educator who shared the school's art collection with museums and galleries across the country and around the world.

Rocca was 76 when she died on March 26.


As curator and director of exhibitions at Elmhurst College since 2006, she oversaw the school's collection of Chicago Imagist and Abstractionist Art. Paintings from the collection have traveled in the past few years to New York City, Sao Paolo, Milan, London and Glasgow.

The collection includes several pieces by Rocca and other members of the Hairy Who, an artists group formed in Chicago in 1966 and known for its vibrant and often weirdly humorous works. In 2018, the Art Institute of Chicago honored the group with a retrospective exhibition of its work.

But "teaching from the collection," and insisting that the art remain accessible to Elmhurst College students, was always a priority for Rocca.

"Suellen was as excited to share the collection with our students as she was with the most acclaimed galleries in Europe," college President Troy D. VanAken said in a written statement.

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Rocca taught in the college's art department for many years and was a mentor to generations of students through critiques and discussion, art professor Mary Lou Stewart said.

She also was active in the community and as a member of Elmhurst's Public Arts Commission. She frequently collaborated with the Elmhurst Art Museum, most recently on an exhibition featuring artist and former Elmhurst College Curator Sandra Jorgensen. In 2018, the museum recognized Rocca for her service as an artist, curator and educator.

Rocca's own works are part of collections in the Art Institute of Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Funeral services will be private. The college will hold a memorial on campus at a later date.

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