Rice Lending a Hand

Matthew Rice and Rick Sayles with the painting.

Former Nittany Lion defensive end draws on his artistic experience to help Penn's Civilians raise money. One of Rice's latest paintings will be auctioned off in support of the charity, which offers assistance to disadvantaged children.

Supporters of Penn's Civilians will have more than just celebrities to gawk at when they attend the charitable organization's fundraising dinner next month. There's also a new painting by former Penn State defensive end Matthew Rice.

Rice, a star on the Nittany Lions' 2005 Big Ten championship team, was commissioned by Penn's Civilians to do a painting to be auctioned off in support of the charity, which provides educational assistance to disadvantaged children. The result is “Revelation,” an oil painting that uses a football scene to illustrate the organization's goal of helping kids overcome obstacles by focusing on education. Conceptualized by Rice, in consultation with Penn's Civilians founder Rick Sayles, the painting shows a wide receiver in the foreground awaiting a pass while being covered by a defensive back. The background is awash in abstract imagery intended to reinforce the themes of the group's mission.

“There were a couple of different goals and things that I wanted to depict in the painting,” Rice said. “Other than that, they basically gave me a green light to be as creative as I wanted to be and to take it where I wanted to take it. Once I start painting, the most joy I get is actually seeing the final product. Because I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know how it's going to turn out.”

Rice has degrees in integrative arts and African and African-American studies from Penn State and recently started a business, Mateo Blu, to market his paintings. He has been doing some commissioned work, has been collaborating with a few clothing companies and has done some speaking engagements at schools in Maryland. Rice hopes to open a gallery soon.

“Eventually I'm going to branch out into a lot of different things, a lot of designs and ways to implement my art,” he said. “But right now I haven't been able to give my company, Mateo Blu, my all, because I'm also juggling football. That's a tough thing to do.”

Rice signed with Detroit as a free agent late last season and filled a spot on the practice squad. He re-signed with the Lions after the season and was allocated to NFL Europa. He will play for the Rhein Fire this spring.

Rice is eager to take another shot at the NFL - he will report to the Lions' camp after the NFL Europa season - but is just as enthused about his artistic potential.

“The community that I'm going to be involved with in Germany is real big into art,” he said. “I've been told the general manager is interested in my artwork and is interested in promoting me in any way possible. That would be a big stride, to take my artwork global. It's something I've always dreamed of doing. I'm very blessed to have this opportunity.”

The Penn's Civilians banquet is set for April 20 (the night before the Blue-White Game) at Toftrees Resort in State College. More information is available at the group's Web site at this link.

Rice plans to sell prints of “Revelation.” The Giclee prints will measure 18 inches by 24 inches and will cost $300 apiece. He expects to have 15 available at the dinner, with more on the way. Rice's artwork can be seen at at this link.

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