Creating a space for individuals of all ages to relax and paint after a stressful day, Tom DeVita, owner of the DeVita Academy of Art, becomes a familiar name at Heritage. “Mr. DeVita is a very social and fun teacher to talk to about just about anything,” eighth grader Amal Israilova said. “He only wants the best for his students and shows them the values art can give them.”
Since he was a child, Mr. DeVita has had an interest in art. “My mom, an artist herself, instilled in me a sense of wonder and imagination,” he said. Growing up and living in New York, DeVita was able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. “The artwork struck me with a sense of awe and the possibilities seemed endless,” he said.
Other than making and studying art, DeVita loves teaching it to anyone, regardless of their age. The only time the job might get stressful, he thinks, is when a student has “built an impenetrable wall against learning.”
“Education is a two-way street. Effective teachers have to toss out their egos and invest in their students, but the students also need to want to learn and be receptive to engagement and exploration,” he said. “Mistakes are not failure but evidence of exploration.”
Today, he owns his own studio, DeVita Academy of Art, located in Davie, Fla. Heritage students such as eighth grader Amal Israilova, sophomores Kangana Modi, Jenna Oweis and Ava Miller attend classes for high school, which are available every Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.
DeVita Academy of Art is not a typical studio. “Throughout the years, DeVita Art Academy has developed art trips to Europe so the students can witness, first-hand, the masterpieces of [influential] artists and observe the architectural treasures they are surrounded by,” DeVita said.
It was on one of his own trips to the Netherlands that DeVita decided to set up his own studio. “We were in Rembrandt’s home in Amsterdam and on the top floor was his studio and school,” he said. At that moment, DeVita turned to his wife and said, “When we get back, we’re opening our own art academy.”
After following up with his dreams, DeVita won an award for Outstanding Educator from The Scholastics Arts and Writing in 2019, received the Duane Hanson Allied Artist Fellowship and was selected to win the Artist in Residence prize for the City of Pembroke Pines Arts given by the Public Spaces Advisory Board. But most important of all, he gained a community filled with those who admire and appreciate art, just like him.
DeVita’s circle of community involves Heritage students as well. “I would recommend anyone to attend DeVita Art Academy because they are very nice and encouraging,” sophomore Ava Miller said.
“DeVita is a very encouraging teacher and goes into detail to help you,” sophomore Jenna Oweis, who has been attending the art academy for five years, said. DeVita’s future plans are to expand the academy to accommodate more students and offer more creative disciplines to enrich the community they have formed in South Florida. “Anyone can be taught to draw but to be an artist takes courage,” DeVita said.