Raphael Diluzio, an art professor who worked for years at the University of Southern Maine and University of Maine, died over the weekend, the USM Free Press reported Tuesday. Credit: Photo courtesy of USM Art Depart

Raphael Diluzio, an art professor who worked for years at the University of Southern Maine and University of Maine, died over the weekend, the USM student newspaper, the Free Press, reported Tuesday.

In an email to students, USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi wrote that Diluzio died “unexpectedly,” according to the Free Press.

“Professor Diluzio’s approach to art pushed conventional boundaries, combining traditional painting and drawing with digital and interactive media,” Uzzi wrote, in part. “Most recently, his work moved into the areas of creativity and entrepreneurship. Known nationally and internationally for his [TEDx] talk ‘The Seven Steps of Creative Thinking.’”

The TEDx channel YouTube videos of Diluzio’s TED talk has been viewed more than 400,000 times, and has been seen by tens of thousands more on Facebook.

In his TEDxDirigo talk, recorded in 2012, Diluzio said he’d suffered nine concussions, including one traumatic brain injury during a crash with a tractor trailer truck in 2008. He said he lost memories, the ability to talk and ability to draw because of the brain trauma.

But Diluzio said he painstakingly taught himself to speak again by reading the newspaper, listening to audio recordings of the text and repeating the sounds of the words.

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He went on to talk about overcoming adversity, the importance of little moments of inspiration, how he believes people are innovative by nature and how people can embrace “the fearlessness of imagination.”

“We are told that we’re not defined by the loss, but we are defined by how we respond to it,” he said.

Diluzio taught at the University of Southern Maine for seven years, before which he taught at the University of Maine, the system’s flagship university in Orono.

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Owen Smith, the director of the Intermedia Master of Fine Arts program at UMaine, worked with Diluzio during his time at the Orono school.

He told the BDN Diluzio was a “magnetic teacher” who inspired many students to pursue careers in media production and new media.

“Raphael Diluzio was a remarkable artist, designer and teacher who brought an unbelievable amount of energy, creativity and engagement to his work,” Smith said, adding: “A mark of excellence for any teacher is their impact on students, and the high quality of work that was produced by Raphael’s students speaks volumes of who he was and his importance to many who knew or worked with him.”

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Diluzio previously taught at Webster University, Savannah College of Art and Design, the University of Wyoming and Southeastern Louisiana University, Uzzi wrote.

“Professor Diluzio recently launched a new USM course called ‘Cr8,’ which challenged students to break through personal and intellectual barriers to become innovative thinkers,” she wrote, in part. “Professor Diluzio’s unique approach to art and creativity inspired not only art students but also students in STEM fields and many other academic disciplines.”

Uzzi wrote that members of the university community who are grieving are encouraged to call the University Counseling Center at 207-780-4050 to set up an appointment, and that an on-site counselor will be available Tuesday and Wednesday at the President’s House on the school’s Gorham campus.

BDN reporter Emily Burnham contributed to this report.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.