California Arts Council

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Arts Council Graphic Designer Theresa D'Onofrio Retires

Best wishes to our beloved colleague  

Published: 08-21-2014



Theresa D'Onofrio, creator of nearly every aspect of our "look," from our business cards to our lively Facebook covers, is retiring from state service. From her initial position at the Arts Council as an Office Technician in 1995, Theresa worked her way up to Associate Governmental Program Analyst (AGPA) and presently serves as the agency's Graphic Designer. In this role she has presided over half a dozen CAC website revamps and a dizzying array of annual reports, Poetry Out Loud programs, and inter-agency graphics projects like the California Museum's beautiful Indian Basketweavers' exhibit catalog.

Among the many projects that have kept her busy, Theresa added her deft touch to the Arts Council's annual presence at Maria Shiver's Women's Conference, California's annual "Arts Day," and a series of visually-stunning touring and presenting catalogs. Her job has thrown challenge after challenge her way, each project different from the one before, and Theresa has risen to the occasion every time.

Growing up in East Detroit, Theresa did not dream of a career in civil service. She wanted to be a dancer, but performing made her so nervous that she had to remove her contact lenses so she couldn't see the audience. Her modern dance teacher told Theresa her semi-blind performance was "beautiful." Nevertheless, Theresa tried other majors while in college: anthropology, psychology, creative writing, interior design...none of them were the perfect fit, but she received a broad-based, eclectic education.

Adding to an already-varied experience, Theresa attended college near the Canadian border in Port Huron, where Tom Hayden started the Students for a Democratic Society shortly before her arrival. The town was a "hotbed of radicalism" during the late 1960's and early 1970's, and Theresa soaked it all in. She acquired an illuminating circle of friends while hanging out with the Black Panthers, and was filmed by the FBI during an anti-war demonstration.

She was attending Michigan State when her then-husband's new job moved her (and their toddler) to Houston, Texas. Culture shock, nasty weather, and a breakup made this an unpleasant episode-but with a happy ending. Theresa caught an episode of the Phil Donahue Show featuring an author whose book was about choosing the best place for you to live. She bought the book, took the values tests, and was told that the best places for her were (a) Sacramento, (b) Tampa, or (c) Portland, Oregon. Unable to resist the "California mystique," Theresa packed up her Datsun hatchback and headed for Sacramento. She celebrated her daughter's fifth birthday in a grocery store parking lot in Colorado.

The early years in Sacramento were challenging. She finished her degree at Sacramento State (after all the majors she tried on for size, it was Communications that finally fit) and eked out a living as a freelance writer. In 1988 she landed a temporary job in the communications office of California's Department of Social Services, and-to her own surprise-this adventurous, free-spirited soul became a career civil servant.

In July of 1995, Theresa landed at the California Arts Council, joining a group of eight or ten women (yes, all women) in the Program Operations and Project Support (POPS) area, processing grant applications. It was tedious work in those analog days, shuffling paper, viewing slides, logging and filing and typing. Eventually Theresa became the POPS group's "lead." When her supervisors asked her to take the minutes at council meetings, Theresa asked for-and was given-a promotion to Staff Services Analyst.

In 2000, the California Arts Council received new computers. A gubernatorial appointee nearing the end of her term saw Theresa "noodling around" on her new computer, and remarked, "You seem to have an aptitude for this. Do you want to do what I'm doing?" At the time, the appointee was working on an annual report. Theresa said, "Sure." The appointee handed her a stack of floppy discs, and Theresa became the agency's Graphic Designer.

The learning curve was steep, but Theresa plunged in with her customary verve and found that she did, indeed, have an aptitude. She received a promotion to AGPA and a window office in short order, and has been "noodling around" ever since, creating design after design for the California Arts Council. Theresa insists she has the best job at the agency.

All good things must come to an end, however, and Theresa is ready for new adventures. Retirement will give her the opportunity to go camping with her dog-and even her trombonist husband, Randy. She also plans to take classes in drumming, gain additional expertise in iPad art (she has already sold two pieces), and join a book club. Most importantly, Theresa is going to "eat her way through Italy" with her two sisters. Arrivederci, Theresa. We'll miss you.

Wednesday, August 27 is Theresa's last day at the Arts Council.