The 15 best student artists:Mat Tonelli

Fifteen artists were chosen to share their stories in our special issue, created to showcase some of Temple’s most passionate and creative on-campus talent.

(Anna Zhilkova/TTN)

Year: Junior
Major: Printmaking

Abstract. Surreal. Experimental.

The art and music of Mat Tonelli embody these things and much more. As a junior printmaking major and musician, Tonelli is constantly pushing his artistic boundaries, as well as the boundaries of viewers and listeners of his work.

“I need their eyes to shake,” Tonelli said. “My goal is to make an impact with art, mainly creating a little uneasiness with shape and color.”

Tonelli achieves this goal and expands upon it. Using the technique of abstraction and rich Native American and Japanese themes, he has created diverse works during his years at Tyler.

Working primarily with etchings, screen prints and litho prints, Tonelli carefully considers topics for his work before producing his final product.

Tonelli’s passion for music originates in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. He is a guitarist in two bands – Franco, a progressive rock band in memory of a friend who passed away, and Happenings, a progressive experimental band that puts abstract beats and diverse harmonies at the forefront.

Although his music interests derive from Massachusetts, Tyler has created a bridge from the New England state to Philadelphia for Tonelli’s musical passions.

In past years, he has helped coordinate the school’s annual Tyler Fest, bringing bands from Worcester to play for the event.

“It is almost like I live in two different worlds,” Tonelli said. “My music is in Massachusetts, and my art [is in] Philadelphia. My passions for each have evened out though, and they influence each other. My art influences my music.”

Tonelli said he would like to continue with his art and music for the rest of his life. With the determination and talent he shows in his work, there is no doubt that this artist will find great success in his future.

“Pushing one’s self and breaking new ground is what being an artist is all about,” he said.

Nicole Welk can be reached at

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