“I recognize that without my scholarship to Cooper, it would have taken me longer to achieve my goals in life. It’s important for me to give back to an institution that shaped me as an artist and a thinker.”
Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1935, Dr. Dorothy Earline Lorraine Hayes is an artist and educator with a lifelong commitment to Cooper Union. After graduating from high school at age 16, Dr. Hayes entered Alabama State University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1957. She then moved to New York City, hoping to build a career as a commercial artist.
Dr. Hayes applied to Cooper Union’s night program in order to strengthen her artistic skills. She recalls visiting the Great Hall on a Saturday for her entrance exam, which lasted an entire day. The Great Hall was filled to capacity with young artists who hoped to claim one of the few open spots in the incoming class. Although Dr. Hayes was not offered a place at Cooper that year, she refused to be discouraged. She took the entrance exam four times before securing an invitation to join Cooper’s program.
In 1963, Dr. Hayes enrolled in Cooper’s night school, where she completed a Certificate of Graphic Design in 1967. She studied three-dimensional design with K. George Kratina and painting with Charles Seide. Soon thereafter, she was invited to join the faculty at the New York City College of Technology, where she taught for nearly 40 years while exhibiting her work in such venues as Rhode Island School of Design and The Studio Museum in Harlem. She also curated several major exhibitions, including “Black Artists in Graphic Communication” at Gallery 303. In 1978, Cooper awarded Dr. Hayes a BFA for professional achievement and life experience.
Dr. Hayes believes that Cooper played an important role in her development as an artist. She began working with plastics while at Cooper, a pursuit that led her to develop kinetic sculptures that retain their structure by static tension (pictured below). Dr. Hayes holds a patent for this construction technique. She also built close relationships with her fellow students, many of whom are still good friends to this day. “Cooper was special,” she says. “It had a supportive, communal atmosphere.”
Dr. Hayes has remained involved with Cooper throughout her life. She has helped the college with recruiting, in addition to providing financial support. She explains why she supports the college: “I recognize that without my scholarship to Cooper, it would have taken me longer to achieve my goals in life. It’s important for me to give back to an institution that shaped me as an artist and a thinker.”
Kinetic Sculpture Without Motors, 1972