Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2014

WILL URSPRUNG Will Ursprung is legally blind ... but

But Sandi’s seriously disappointed in the quality of some of the learning materials and children’s programming available for preschoolers, even the venerable “Sesame Street.” She worries that the pace is too frantic and the volume too

as he scans the ground beneath his feet, he sees things that most people never notice – and then turns these found objects into art. “I am not able to see well enough to have a driver’s license,” he refects, “but I do

loud for the audience. Her products introduce letters, numbers, shapes, colors, people, places, concepts and rhymes using multi- cultural animations and pictures, along with sound efects and a wide variety of music, from classic to country. The line also includes materials to teach sign language and fnger spelling. That’s not surprising, since Sandi’s older son Jim was born profoundly deaf and his mom has been a tireless advocate for the deaf ever since. Sandi taught at Wattsburg Elementary School for four years after graduating from Mercyhurst. She married Larry Zobrest, a Gannon graduate, a couple of years later and earned a master’s degree in elementary education at Edinboro University. After Jim arrived in 1974, Sandi and Larry worked intensely with him at home, and he fourished in preschool at Erie’s Barber Center. With few good options once he reached school age, the Zobrests headed west to Arizona in search of better opportunities. Years later, their school district refused to provide him with a sign language interpreter when he enrolled in a Catholic high school. Sandi’s lawsuit challenging that decision would eventually go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Zobrests did eventually win, setting the precedent that handicapped children are entitled to supportive services even if they attend private schools. By that time, Jim had graduated from high school and enrolled in community college. His family had paid tens of thousands of dollars to interpreters, funded by Sandi through continual appeals to foundations and businesses. Larry recently retired after a long career in business, but Sandi says she’s working harder now than when she had a full-time job. She’s running three businesses, including Nonna and Me, a property verifcation service for REALTORS®, and a pet-sitting service she operates with Jim. He went on to the University of Arizona to study media and digital arts. Lina was Larry and Sandi’s frst grandchild. Her parents, Sam and Michelle, also have three younger children. Visit Sandi’s website at and check out her blog at .

see the world from a very diferent perspective.” His medium of choice is collage, from the French “coller,” meaning to glue or paste. A collage is created by gluing papers, photographs and all sorts of found objects to a paper or canvas. His recent works are primarily found metal and wood objects, some appropriately from an auto salvage yard. When he inadvertently picked up a damaged, rusted BMW trunk, he found on his return the piece wasn’t meant to be taken. By that time he had to tell the lot’s owner, “It’s too late. It’s art now.”That’s also the working title for a book he expects to publish this fall, subtitled “Confessions of a Collage Artist.” Will graduated from Mercyhurst in 1976 with a degree in art education and studio art. He started out as a painter and studied with Sr. Angelica Cummings, Dan Burke and Ernie Mauthe, whom he calls his mentor. He soon discovered he felt more freedom in collage and assemblage art, and that’s been his focus ever since. He had planned to teach art, but the tough job market of the late ‘70s got in the way. He then worked as a mental health tech in a psychiatric hospital before beginning training at Temple University as an art therapist. He earned his master’s degree in art therapy from Hahnemann Medical College in 1981. Will spent 35 rewarding years in art therapy, including 20 years at Pennsylvania’s maximum-security Graterford Prison. He encouraged the inmates to use art and collage to tell their stories. The materials were easy to obtain. Reclaiming and repurposing those discarded objects was symbolic, as well. He had to give up the prison job in 2011. Born prematurely, Will has dealt with vision impairment all his life, but was able to function relatively normally until just a few years ago.

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