Jonientz’s legacy honored through art, friendship



Professor Jonientz stand next to his work. Photo courtesy of Bill Caraher.

Art enthusiasts dressed in traditional french attire celebrated the works of artist Honore Daumier on Thursday at the UND Art Collections exhibit, but one corner of the Empire Arts Center served as a reminder of the loss the Grand Forks community suffered this week.

This corner included submissions by local artists UND professor Joel Jonientz and Samuel Schultz, and was dedicated to the memory of Jonientz, who passed away last Monday.

While the exhibit was lively and upbeat, a somber aura surrounded Jonientz’s corner as onlookers soaked in the final artistic impression left by the late art professor.

The university was informed of Joneintz’s death Thursday and invited students and faculty to read fellow professor and longtime friend Bill Caraher’s blog entry.

“It sucks,” Caraher said in his blog. “Yesterday, I was wracked by grief, and, while today I don’t feel any less sad, I also realize how much work I have to do to live up to Joel’s legacy.”

The legacy mentioned by Caraher is one that reaches many people in the Grand Forks community and would take most people a full lifetime to create, but Jonientz did it in just 46 years.

Jonientz leaves behind his wife and three children and will be remembered through his various contributions to the local art community, including a podcast called “Professor Footnote,” a blog documenting his art and videos on Vimeo.

Caraher claims that Jonientz was supportive of most ideas, especially those with the community in mind.

“Joel was one of these guys who did not follow a prescribed path,” Caraher said. “He did what he thought was right to benefit his students, his colleagues and the campus community.”

Within hours of its posting, Caraher’s blog was viewed by over 400 people. Comments from UND students and faculty continue to appear and reiterate one simple fact: Jonientz truly made the Grand Forks community better, and he will be missed greatly by all who knew him.

“Anyone who met Joel — even just for a moment — remembers him, and we’ll all feel his loss for a long time,” Caraher said.

Sam Wigness is the features editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].