Joan Gaustad came to VCU as a student in the early 1970’s. As the child of an Army officer, she lived in Thailand and Europe prior to her arrival on the Monroe Park Campus and her first impressions of Richmond were not terribly positive and she never thought she would remain. All of that changed when after earning the Bachelors of Fine Arts in Communication Arts and Design from VCU, Gaustad married Gerald Donato and they made a home in Richmond and in the local art community, becoming the couple affectionately known as simply “Joan and Jerry” to most who knew them.

Gaustad and Donato were integral to Richmond’s art community that has grown and evolved over the decades to become well known and widely respected around the world.

Gaustad has a long career in the Richmond area as a painter and her work has been exhibited at Try-Me, Reynolds Gallery, 1708 Gallery, The VMFA Studio School, and VCU Arts Anderson Gallery. Her paintings are in the collections of the Markel Corporation, Federal Reserve Bank, Medical College of Virginia.

Donato exhibited at the Reynolds Gallery, the 1708 Gallery (where he was a founding member) and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts during his career. He was faculty in the VCU School of the Arts for 38 years before early onset dementia prompted early retirement. He died in 2010 at the age of 68.

In 2020, Gaustad made a gift to VCU Libraries to transform the wall leading to the James Branch Cabell Library Lecture Hall into an art wall complete with museum quality lighting. Now known as “The Donato Wall”, the space is dedicated to the VCU students Donato so loved as a gift from Gaustad. In the early summer of 2020, Gaustad gave Donato’s painting “Untitled (Mask)”, 1987 to VCU Libraries. The painting is installed and awaits visitors when the Cabell Library reopens for students and patrons.

Categories Alumni, Community, Donors, Uncategorized