Deptford Twp. – While most college students simply focus on getting through the semester, Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) sophomore Gianna Rose Ritz looks to the future. As an artist, she has already started making a name for herself.
Thanks to an artistic mother, the creative world of art was introduced to Ritz at the tender age of five. In the fifth grade, she began to dream of becoming an artist. Since then her dreams have only grown as she travels the pathway to success.
"I want to prove that young artists can go places when they truly believe in their work," said Ritz.
One step she boldly acknowledges is creating a piece of artwork for one of her role models, journalist and talk show host Meredith Vieira. Ritz painted a picture of Vieira's dog, Jasper, and brought it to the Meredith Vieira Show in October to give to the comedian. Once the show was over, she gathered the courage to ask Vieira — who like Ritz is a dog lover — if she received it. To Ritz's surprise Vieira said it was already hanging in her dressing room and began crying as she thanked her. In December, Ritz returned to the show and mentioned the painting. Vieira began to tear up, grabbed Ritz's hand, took her down to the set and then to her dressing room to see where the painting was displayed.
"Meredith is one of the most kind-hearted women I've ever met," said Ritz. "It was truly an amazing feeling having the opportunity to meet her twice."
Most recently her artwork, which varies in style, was featured in the RCGC Student Art Show from December through January. During the art show reception, a print of Ritz's painting "Zebra" was purchased for the owners of the Plumpton Park Zoo in Maryland, Nicholas and Cheryl Lacovara of Mullica Hill. Another intriguing piece, "Leaf," embodies Ritz's belief that "with a little imagination, anything can become a canvas." In the recreation of her favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry, Starry Night," Ritz captures his style, but gives it a modern twist by displaying her art on skateboards.
"Having an artistic talent should be about exploring new things and discovering new techniques," said Ritz.
The Triton Regional High School alumna has taken advantage of social media by creating #ArtByGiannaRitz on Instagram, which has helped to promote her artwork. With every purchase, 20 percent of the proceeds go to "Hats for the Homeless," a charity Ritz founded at 10 years old. Each year more than 3,000 new hats, scarves and gloves are collected and brought to the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Gloucester Township has honored Ritz for her service with the "Women Who Make a Difference" award, engraving her name on a memorial plaque.
In addition, as A.C. Moore's Painting Instructor of the District, Ritz works at four locations doing what she loves – teaching art. In January, the Glendora native left for Florida to begin taking advantage of the Disney College Program. She describes it as a small step towards one of her dreams — to work for Disney Animations. After graduating from RCGC, Ritz plans to transfer to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to become an art teacher and would like to one day own a studio and teach classes.
"I want to continue to grow in college and take advantage of all the opportunities presented, to help advance my career," said Ritz.
Rowan College at Gloucester County is located at 1400 Tanyard Road in Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.