Jim McKeon ’83, Once Inspired by STA Art Teacher, Makes It to the Met Opera
Posted on 10/28/2022
Jim McKeon of the St. Thomas Aquinas High School Class of 1983 was going to be a plumber. As the youngest of nine children and the fourth of his siblings to attend St Thomas Aquinas, his path seemed clear. His father and other family members were all members of the New Jersey Pipefitters Union and operated a plumbing supply store. But an inspirational art teacher saw something special in him. Mr. John Kronemeyer realized that Jim had a talent and artistic ability. He pleaded with Jim to apply to the prestigious School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City. When he was accepted, and with the full support and encouragement of his family, Jim went from STA to SVA in NYC.

Forty years later, the culmination of a successful artistic career has led Jim, his wife Christine, and a dozen friends to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to view his original piece entitled “Breaking Glass Ceilings.” The painting is now part of the permanent collection and is on display in the Founders Gallery of the Met.

The painting, an oil on linen portrait measuring 86” x 54”, depicts dancer, choreographer, and producer Camille A. Brown in a classic ballet pose superimposed against a backdrop of the iconic Metropolitan Opera crystal chandeliers. Camille Brown is the first black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway production in 70 years.

“I like and respect people who achieve, despite the odds. Not the ones who complain about why they can’t. My message is keep breaking glass ceilings,” said McKeon.

It seems that the values and lessons that nurtured Jim McKeon’s soul and gave him guidance at STA have ripened into a world view and guiding principles to inform us all.