Otterbein Art Alum and Administrator Sees Success at Home and Around the World

Posted Jan 04, 2021

Chaz O’Neil ’06, collection registrar and instructor in Otterbein’s Department of Art and Art History, is so fascinated by space exploration that he chose to focus on it for an exhibition of original art as part of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

His body of work, on display at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) through April 25, 2021, reflects his interest in the messages that humans have sent into outer space in search of intelligent life. (Please check the CMA website for closures due to COVID-19.)

O’Neil’s process of making these works involves a tension between control and chaos. The cut-out shapes that form regular grids and patterns are mathematical in their precision, while his spray paints, washes, and other uses of pigments and resins open the work up to chance.

“The repeated image in my Messenger Series is taken from the etched plaque designed by renowned astronomer Carl Sagan for NASA’s Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft,” said O’Neil of one piece. “The plaque contains informational diagrams about human beings and the location of Earth in the infinitesimal chance that the spacecraft is intercepted by extra-terrestrial life forms.”

For another piece, O’Neil said he was inspired by a visit to Terra Mineralia, a museum in Freiberg, Germany, that houses one of the world’s largest collections of minerals. He thinks the vinyl installation, Terraform (2020), is one of his most ambitious works to date.

O’Neil graduated from Otterbein with a bachelor’s degree in 2006. He credits Otterbein with creating undergraduate opportunities related to the field of art. “Even while I was a student at Otterbein, I was able to exhibit my work regionally, which helped lead to a summer job at the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition in 2005,” he said.

He earned his master of fine arts degree from Bowling Green State University in 2013 and was hired in 2014 as Otterbein’s museum and galleries assistant by one of his most influential mentors, Professor Nicholas Hill.

O’Neil’s role at Otterbein has grown over the years. He is now the collection registrar for the Global and Contemporary Art Collections and he has taught drawing, intermedia, and Integrative Studies courses.

He also has taught drawing at Shanghai Publishing Printing College in China as part of an exchange with Otterbein and has held artist residencies in Spain and Germany.

In spring 2021, he is curating an exhibition of recently graduated art majors who missed out on their Senior Art Exhibitions in 2020 due to COVID-19.

O’Neil has seen success as an arts administrator and featured artist around the world — career success that he attributes to his time as a student and employee at Otterbein.

“My instructors and mentors at Otterbein, past and present, have really empowered me to pursue new aspirations and meet new challenges. It’s an honor to be able to work and grow where it all started, at a place I can call home — Otterbein,” he said.

Learn more about O’Neil’s art at and follow him online @chzoneil12.