This article can be found in the Winter 2016 edition of the Alumni Magazine.
June 30, 2016
One could justifiably describe the affection surrounding former USF art department professor and chair Maurice “Maury” Papier as the “Maury Aura.” When his former students and local arts patrons packed Artlink in downtown Fort Wayne on Sept. 11 for “Maurice Papier: A Retrospective,” the galleries hummed with excitement.
It was a familiar medium for Papier. His was the inaugural exhibit when Artlink opened 37 years ago on Broadway Street. Now honored by the show in Artlink’s new Main Street facility, surrounded by admiring alumni, two things became clear: Papier is an artist of note, and his artistry transcends the canvas to transform teaching into an art form.
His impact as a regional artist is clear, and as substantial as the Indiana landscapes he depicts.
Hoosier scenes crop up throughout his precise, almost instrumentally rendered work, which shows diverse influences—mechanical drawing, geometry, architecture—and auto striping.
“I was a car maniac in the ’50s and ’60s, and cars were a big deal. Everybody wanted to soup up hot rods,” he said. “Flame jobs were a big deal, and I learned how to do it and actually made some money at it. All through college at Ball State, I was in car clubs, until I started teaching.”
He backed up that skill with drafting classes taken all through high school at Fort Wayne North Side, where protractors and compasses, not computers, were the tools of the trade. Already accomplished academically, he set a goal to become an engineer—until he watched their static, repetitive work.
“In college I took art as a major because I had to declare, and it was the subject I disliked the least. I never took art in high school, but in a couple quarters of school I was hooked, and have been ever since. I have never regretted my decision, and would not do anything over,” he said.
Characterizing his artwork as semi-abstract, he explained his fascination with Hoosier scenery. “Most people don’t like Indiana landscapes; they think they’re flat, but I find them very clean and sparse. I reduce my painting to the final element. It’s fascinating. And it changes. I love the seasons,” he said. “I’m not interested in figures or portraits, so I start with landscape, and lots of it is also based on an interest, and what ‘hit’ me at the time. A year or two later, I will be reminded of what inspired me and will go back and pursue it again. And it’s kind of autobiographical.
“I want to do more shows. I’ve been retired for eight years, and unlike some people who want a part-time job during retirement, I don’t need it—painting does that for me. If I don’t paint for three or four weeks, I get to be a real grouch.”
Saint Francis united his twin passions.
“So I taught and was the department chair from 1972 to 2000. Rick Cartwright took over as department chair in 2000. I continued to teach until my retirement in 2008. I taught art all day, went home and did art all night. It was perfect,” he said.
Respect for each person guided the Maury teaching magic. “I took for granted they were all individuals, so I didn’t use just one approach. You lose people that way, and I really wanted to find out where they were,” he said. “I let them experiment with teaching and go from there with it. I felt an obligation to tell the ones who were undecided, or on the edge, not to teach. When you’re a fine artist, you can’t always divert to teaching. In a class of 20, I’d have two or three like that.”
Students of all variations invigorate him. “What I enjoy about teaching is the people. I enjoy leading people from different backgrounds with an interest in art in the same direction. It’s so rewarding to lead them to something important in their lives.”
With the passage of years, the scope of his impact astounds him. “I was overwhelmed at the opening, and amazed by what they remembered me saying. I said, ‘You do?’ You don’t think they’ll remember things for 15 to 25 years,” he said. “They inspire me as much as I do them. USF has such a great bunch. There are no bad students.”
The retrospective included artwork by some of Papier’s former University of Saint Francis students: Jeff Cochran, Jeff Dollens, Justin Johnson, Louise Cartwright, Bob Keil, Betty Fishman, Neil Boston, Tony Bouillon, Dale Pequignot, Alan Nauts, Audrey Riley, Amy Schreiber, Mary Klopfer, Greg Becker, Donny Manco, Dominick Manco, Jenny Sanders, Paul Winicker, Jeffrey Crane, Dave Tarr, Mary Lou Knurek and Debra Kern.
“He was my absolute favorite art education professor, and instrumental in helping me find my love of teaching and blending the artist and the teacher.” – Sarah Shatto, BA ’03, Southwest Allen County Schools Teacher of the Year 2013
At the opening, anyone wishing for comment on Papier’s teaching could have tripped over alumni eager to speak on the subject. The following encapsulates just a bit of the outpouring.
“He was my absolute favorite art education professor, and instrumental in helping me find my love of teaching and blending the artist and the teacher. He helped me establish a balance,” said Sarah Shatto, BA 2003. “I’m not surprised at the turnout. He knows everyone, but is understated. He’s so sincere and generous. He helped me learn to relax in the studio. He always made me laugh by telling me a story, like a time when Salvador Dali was obviously inebriated during a public interview.”
“I used ‘How would Maury do it?’ as my model,” said Dominick Manco, BA 1992. “I learned lots about teaching and how to deal with students and critique in a non-brutal, uplifting way. Even if he didn’t like it, he would spin it kindly. He was constructive. He’s kind of the patron saint of Indiana landscapes, and a fathering figure that was so mentoring to me and so beloved by students, he has this fabulous presence and attraction.”
“He taught art teaching, what to expect. He’s always been calm, cool, not excited. And truthful. Your work might not have been acceptable, but he told you in a kind way. But you wanted to do good work because of who he was,” said Steve Riley, BA 1982, a former art teacher for Snider High School in Fort Wayne. “We were so lucky to have Steve Perfect, Maury and Rick Cartwright in the School of Creative Arts.”
“He was laid-back, introspective and always had a story. The way he merged art history and design was classic,” said Deb Washler-Jackson, BA ’98 and Artlink executive director for nine years. “I loved the dynamic. You could talk and he responded. He helped me audit a class so I could graduate within my timeframe.”