If you’ve attended a Mineral Area College commencement during the last 18 years, you might have noticed one of the cap-and-gowned faculty members (seated in rows behind the podium) busily putting pencil to paper during the ceremony.
No, he wasn’t taking notes. Art Professor Jim Wilson was sketching out the scenes of the day, adding his pencil and ink drawings to a collection that he has decided is now complete. He has announced he will be retiring in December.
Wilson’s students and former students, however, are helping to stage an art show and mini-reunion for their inspirational instructor that’s free to the public, 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday in the MAC Fine Arts Theater Lobby. “Jim Wilson’s All-Star Alumni Art Exhibit & Reception,” will feature paintings, drawings and sculpture by such students as Rebecca Turner, Carrie Stevens and Tori Barber, with refreshments and a slideshow of art adventures through the years. The art will be on display in the theater foyer until Dec. 15. For more information, call 573-518-2303.
Wilson said, at the end of his MAC career, he wanted to show the “good energy” of the students he taught.
“There were lots of them who took advantage of the situation here at MAC. Almost all of them, whether they wanted to pursue art as a career or not, exceeded their own expectations and surprised themselves by what they could accomplish.
“MAC is supposed to be this quiet, backwater college, but we really have an exciting outlet for burgeoning artists here. And we’ve had fun—you’ve seen the giant statues for the Scarecrow Contest, out on the quad. We’ve built mini, walkable ‘floats’ for the indoor Homecoming parade. We’ve designed sets for some of the big productions that have taken place in the theater over the years, like ‘Scapino,’ ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and ‘Music Man.’”
Wilson said his former students frequently keep in touch, and it’s gratifying to hear favorable feedback. “When they transfer, my students are frequently told their work ethic is better than the other students.” he said. “I remember when I was starting out like them, I was told, ‘Yeah, this is great, but you should do more.’ That’s what I try to bring out of my students, to never settle, always push: ‘you should do more, you should do more, you should do more.’ I think it’s not necessarily that I demand it, they just know I expect it. Art is all about pushing yourself, growing, evolving, trying.”
For almost 20 years, Wilson said, he’s been growing and evolving right along with his students. “I’ve learned so much. Every time I walk into class to teach, I learn something. I’m always experimenting.”
Wilson said if his students complain about anything, it’s that he changes things up too much. “One of their complaints is that I switch projects, but I think about every class before I come in. I’m prepared, but I also want to see how they’re coming, and where they are, and shift things so that the lessons fit and they learn more,” he said. “It’s more by example than by particular art lessons. My approach is more spiritual. They have to learn how to think outside the box.”
He said while he and his wife, Lourdes, are contemplating a move back to her country of origin, Mexico, he’s still planning to stick around this area for a couple of years while his younger son finishes college in Missouri.
“It’s nice to have a crazy person around. I take the spotlight off of everyone else,” he said.