By Cassy Cochrun ’10
Bill McKie, a 79-year-old firstyear student in Drury’s Master of Arts in studio art and theory (MART) program, knows a thing or two about starting something new.
Originally a student at the University of Nebraska, the fine arts major received a fellowship at the University of Illinois after he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958. But Illinois didn’t agree with him. “All of the art there was the same. You had to make what they wanted you to make,” he says, also citing many student teachers and a general lack of face time with professors. So he returned to Nebraska, where he worked as a draftsman and technical illustrator for the state government.
Twenty years ago, after retiring from his career in Nebraska, Bill relocated near Table Rock Lake and settled in to the Ozarks. One day, he and his wife of 55 years, Kokie, stumbled upon an ad for Drury’s MART program. It interested him, but it took encouragement from Kokie for him to seriously consider pursuing his master’s degree.
Eventually, Bill set up a meeting with Tom Parker, the director of the MART program. “Drury is very fortunate to have Mr. Parker,” Bill says. “What an inspiration!” They spoke for two hours, and in the end, Bill decided to come to Drury and give art school another shot.
The MART program is unique in that it consists of only three summer semesters. Last summer, during his first semester in the program, Bill drove the forty-five minutes from his home to Drury four days a week to take two classes: Studio Art and Art Theory & Critique. He, like many art students, preferred his time in the studio, noting that art theory, “is a dubious thing.”
However, being in a room full of talented artists was a draw for him. “The kids in class are young, energetic, and enthusiastic,” he says. Bill is visibly excited about the work he has done and what lies ahead for him in his next two summers. He quips that next to marrying his wife, the MART program is the best thing that ever happened to him.
It’s clear that Bill values the inspiration that comes from his classes in the MART program. At the end of each summer, Drury’s Pool Art Center presents a Master of Studio Art and Theory Candidates’ Exhibition, which showcases artwork by the graduate students enrolled in the program. The paintings Bill showed at this exhibition are heavily influenced by his favorite artist, Franz Kline, who informs Bill’s seemingly spontaneous lines and brush strokes, as well as the mostly black and white colors in his paintings. But perhaps his biggest influences, Bill says, were his professors in the MART program. “Larry [Kolden, one of the MART program’s visiting artists] pushes my artwork,” he says. With Larry’s encouragement, Bill completed a 14-foot painting during classes this summer—an accomplishment of which he is especially proud.
Bill entered school knowing that the most important thing is to keep asking questions, keep learning, and keep finding ways to be inspired, so he takes advantage of the instruction in the MART program to push his artwork to the next level. With this in mind, it’s clear that the best is yet to come for Bill McKie, class of 2015.