Sandi D’Alessandro didn’t give up.
When a high school guidance counselor told her she wasn’t college material, she set out to prove otherwise.
She became an art teacher at Cave Spring High School, then head of the Hidden Valley High School art department, earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Hollins University, won national prizes for her watercolor paintings and honors for her teaching.
And when she learned she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, she fought it with everything she had. She continued to create art until her body would no longer let her.
D’Alessandro died Nov. 11, 2011, almost two years after she and her husband, Frank, first received the diagnosis. She was 60.
On May 4, Signature 9 Gallery in downtown Roanoke will open “Painting Interrupted,” a large-scale tribute to the late artist. The art selected for the show provides a retrospective of her career, up through the final works she left unfinished.
The show also includes work from D’Alessandro’s students, retired Hollins professor Bill White, whom she studied under, and a special artwork tribute created by 29 regional artists who spent time with her during the last two years of her life.
Her influence in Roanoke’s art community was such that on May 2, the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge will honor D’Alessandro with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the Perry F. Kendig Awards ceremony to be held 6:30 p.m. at the Taubman Museum of Art.