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Muses in the House

For campus security officer Kathy Agostinelli, painting is a passion

Visitors to the Benjamin West House can’t miss the imposing oil painting on the wall by the entrance door. It shows Hemingway, Public Safety’s cat for 17 years and possibly a direct descendent of Ben West’s cat, Grimalkin. John Donne’s line “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which Ernest Hemingway borrowed for his famous book, hangs ominously over the scene.    

An artist since childhood, Kathy Agostinelli is also author and illustrator of children’s book The Legend of the Motley Giraffes.

“I don’t ever remember not drawing and painting, like all little kids do. The difference is, I stayed with it,” says Agostinelli, whose favorite artist is Benjamin West.

Agostinelli has taken art classes whenever possible, including one with Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Professor of Studio Art Randy Exon, of whom she’s a big fan.

“I need the commitment of being in a class—with deadlines for assignments to keep me focused,” Agostinelli says. In 1990, she earned a graphic design degree from community college and has painted hundreds of pictures, giving away many and selling quite few. She has also curated art and photography shows throughout Delaware County and worked as a photographer for the Delaware County Daily Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Swarthmorean, and The Associated Press.

Among Agostinelli’s paintings is a portrait series of her colleagues, including one of Director of Campus Security Mike Hill in running shorts—“Rocky” style—on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

The picture that has most meaning for Agostinelli portrays Eddie Kline, a Swarthmore police officer, which won first prize in a Swarthmore contest.

“That picture made The Swarthmorean, and though for most it’s not a big deal, getting the people’s choice put me on the map. I lived in Swarthmore, down by the waterfall on Yale Avenue. I was incredibly prolific there. I think there were muses in that house.”