Tributes for retiring visual arts professor

By Costa Maragos Posted: December 13, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Just a few frames and other odds and ends to pack up as Marsha Kennedy wraps-up a rewarding 20 year career in the visual arts department.
Just a few frames and other odds and ends to pack up as Marsha Kennedy wraps-up a rewarding 20 year career in the visual arts department. Photo: External Relations

Marsha Kennedy is nearly done with her big move.

Kennedy, an instructor at the visual arts department, is retiring after 20 years on campus.

In her studio on the second floor of the Riddell Centre, she still has some boxes to pack and lots of odds and ends, including an old wood crate. Kennedy has been working on this move since September, diligently packing away her art work and other keepsakes. She’s moved some of her work home, but most if it has been sold or given away to friends, family and students.

“I can’t keep it all, I don’t have the space at home,” says Kennedy.

The U of R has been a home away from home for Kennedy since the 1970s.

She earned her bachelor of fine arts at the U of R in 1977. She completed her masters of fine arts at Toronto’s York University in 1981. She taught in Ontario for awhile, including Guelph University and the Art Gallery of Ontario before returning home to Regina in 1991 to teach painting and drawing at the U of R.

Kennedy art work
One of Marsha’s paintings on display at the Slate Fine Art Gallery in Regina.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and locally in solo and group exhibitions. Her work is currently on display at the Slate Fine Art Gallery in Regina as part of the Saturnalia IV exhibition, on until January 7, 2017.

Kennedy is loved and respected by her peers and her students. Her Facebook page is filled with good wishes from current and former students.
“Wow. It is the end of an era,” says one comment. “I can at least say I was one of the fortunate few to have a wonderful professor such as yourself.”

Another post states: “I feel fortunate to be one of your last students. You were an awesome prof.”

We spoke with Marsha about her retirement and her views on the immense value of the arts in the community.

How do you feel now that you are wrapping this up?

“Well it’s really cold outside and I’m looking forward to not having to get up and come into work in the morning,” (laughing). “I am looking forward to focussing on my art practice. I’m at the point where I can’t get as much done in a day when I’m teaching. I’m looking forward to having a clear mind and focus on things I want to do.”

What impact has the U of R had on the visual arts community in the city?

In the time I’ve come back there’s a lot more active artists living in the community.  
Many local artists have gone through the program. So the communication we have with our students and what I’ve been doing too, as a teacher and mentor is very important. I stay connected with them to try and help them because it is a challenge.”

Marsha Kennedy Award
Marsha Kennedy (right) accepting an award from the arts organization CARFAC for her substantial contribution to the visual culture of Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of Terri Fidelak
What do you say to your students about the challenges faced with working in the art world?

“It’s a hard one. You don’t want to shut them down right away and don’t want to say something that is only good news. So I use myself as an example. I did it as a single parent. I talk to them about how to work that out (finances). I give them practical things they can hang on to and make use of. There’s a kind of wealth or richness about being an artist. It isn’t just flicking around the brush and making art. It’s the interesting ideas and research that goes into the work. So your whole life starts to open up and grow.”

What is your greatest joy in teaching students?

“I think it’s when you see them get it. I mean a lot of times young people come in some of them don’t really know what they want to do. They know they like doing this. They might not have a lot of original ideas because they haven’t been exposed to enough art and they don’t know themselves very much. But when you see the light go on and then you see a real change in their work. And it’s almost like it flips over. They become an artist at least inside. So with that passion and that desire that’s lit inside of them, that makes it all worthwhile for me.”

You were honoured recently (by the artists group CARFAC) for your substantial contribution to the visual culture of Saskatchewan. How did that make you feel?

“It came nicely. I’m really glad while I was still alive (laughing) and still working. It did feel really nice. It made me stop and think back about all that I have done and it felt pretty nice that my community felt gratitude for that. It was nice to have the award for that reason.

Marsha Kennedy is retiring to a full-time art practice. We wish you all the best with your new adventure Marsha.