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Tech Triumphs

Rhenda Cofer Saporito, '74

Rhenda Cofer Saporito, '74This real estate agent and daughter of a Tech icon feels that "painting all day and into the night is a dream come true."

Title: Artist-Saporito Interiors and Real Estate Associate Broker, Coldwell Banker TEC Realtors, New Orleans

Hometown: Born in Dallas, raised in Ruston

Now resides in: New Orleans

Degree: B. S. Home Economics

High School: Ruston High School

What brought you to Tech? I was raised in Ruston and attended LSU for a year and a half. During the Christmas vacation, my friends talked me into coming back to Tech. My grandmother and my mother went to Tech, my mother was the former Dean of the College of Home Economics (Agnes C. Miller).

What are some of your favorite memories of Tech? Living at Kidd dorm on the first floor with a great group of long-lasting friends was wonderful. As a Home Ec major, I lived in the home management house on campus, which was a fantastic experience.

Tell us about your professional life after Tech: I moved to New Orleans after graduation to teach Special Ed Home Economics in Chalmette at St Bernard Evaluation and Training Center. I taught there for three years. When the Hyatt Regency Hotel opened downtown, I was hired to be the assistant manager of the revolving restaurant at the top of the Hyatt - The Vendome. A visit to see Betty Lou and Coach Scotty Robertson in late 1978 spurred my next career. Scotty was the first Coach of the New Orleans Jazz and we moved to New Orleans at about the same time. Scotty and Betty Lou suggested I get into real estate, which I did. I’m still selling real estate after 39 years.

How has Tech helped you in your career? Home Economics prepares one for so many after-college endeavors. I have kept up with many of my friends and professors at Tech throughout the years. I visited my tailoring professor last year (42 years after graduation).

What is your advice to today’s freshmen? Sit in front of the class, pay attention, and meet your professor and see how you can get the most out of your classes. As many have said, I wish I had applied myself more while in school. For someone who wasn’t always focused in class…..I have taken some sort of class/workshop almost every semester since graduation.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s…: focus and apply yourself. There is a “lesson” to learn everywhere, if you just pay attention.

Who are a couple of your favorite artists, and why? Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem DeKooning and Joan Mitchell are some of my favorite artists. I have been lucky enough to meet and spend time with my favorite living artists, Gary Komarin and Robert Kingston. New Orleans has such a wonderful community of accomplished artists, such as Allison Stewart, Auseklis Ozols, and George Dunbar, among others. A highlight was in March 2016 when the director of New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts invited me to have a two-person show. After being a student there for so many years, the show was a real honor. 

Why ‘abstract expressionism,’ and how did you begin? I saw a painting I wanted and I decided, “I could do that.” I enrolled in New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and continued to study there for 18 years. Abstract expressionism appealed to me because I thought “no one would know” if it was wrong. But…I know if it’s wrong, and thus the struggle. I participated in a group show in April at Degas Gallery, Julia Street, New Orleans, and in a solo show – Rhenditions - in May. Galleries represent my work in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Atlanta. Publication recoginition includes “Inside New Orleans -Cover Art” and a feature article in the “Women in Business” issue: “Inside Northside, Fresh Paint-London, Art Galleries and Artists of the South-Emerging Artists.” And “Forbes - 19 Artists Studios.”  

Corporate collectors include University Medical Center in New Orleans and Sloan Kettering, NYC, a law firm in New York City.

What role did your mom play in your love of art? While Mother taught at Tech we attended A.E.Phillps. Phillips had a great art curriculum; they used graduate students from the Tech art department.

Update us please on your mom and sister: Dr. Agnes C. Miller continues her thirst for knowledge by “Googling” whenever she needs to know something. Her IPad is her constant companion. She had managed a stock account which has kept her up to date with current events and various companies and their products. Agnes continues to manage stock portfolios. Her latest venture is a “booklet” called “Dinner is Served!, a Quick Reference about Meals.” The booklet has just launched coinciding with Agnes’ 99th birthday. My sister, Claire Cofer Friedrichs, is a stockbroker and certified portfolio manager. She relaxes by painting. Claire especially enjoys painting dog portraits.

How has social media been used to expand your art knowledge? Social media makes your sphere of influence global. The internet has really changed our lives. It allows for a community of like-minded artists who can connect globally at any time. Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest are a few of the social media platforms on which I post. They are wonderful sources to view art and promote one’s work.

Where are some of your favorite places to travel? I love to travel to the BVI (British Virgin Islands) because the water is intoxicating. I’m so inspired by the soft aqua-colored water, the movement and colors it makes as the water moves over the ocean floor. I also love the ruins in Italy. The crumbling architecture is mesmerizing. Even walking and seeing a cracked sidewalk can give me inspiration for a painting. I find memories of places I have visited or images I have seen might show up in my work years later. I’m lucky to have attended many artists’ residencies in Florida and in California. That’s like going to a spa for an artist. Painting all day and into the night is a dream come true.


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