Reflections: Undergraduate at the University of Alabama

From 1953 to 1957 I attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Coming from a large city (Birmingham, Alabama) with no art museum at that time, I was fortunate to have a father who loved to travel and was an amateur photographer, an aunt that taught ceramic arts, and a mother who loved beauty. We visited most of the major museums in the United States. I will never forget seeing Blue Boy by Gainsborough at the Huntington Museum.

My first brush with modern art was drawing in a high school class of Laneil Wilson. Other reasons for going to the University had little to do with art, as there was a nice young gentlemen stationed at Ft. Rucker from South Carolina, and another one coming home from Germany and attending the University in the fall.

It was an era of “panty raids“, Authrine Lucy (the first African American to attend the University of Alabama), and girls wearing raincoats over their blue jeans so they would not be seen. It was a time when Tuscaloosa was still a small town, untouched by malls and suburban sprawl.

Those rickety old stairs of Woods Hall, with all the instructors talented students taught me a wonderful world of seeing through art. I recall walking from Wilson Hall across the Quadrangle by Denny Chimes and the Library, trying to carry out all art supplies for the day in the middle of a cold winter wind. In spring, I cut through by Clark Hall and up those old stairs of Woods Hall. The art classes were wonderful due to the instructors:

  • Mr. Zoellner showing all how to do lithography with a stone, his gift of drawing with decision.
  • Mr. Goodson and his kindness and patience in drawing day after day from a model.
  • Mr. Bolt from another North Eastern world bringing bright colors in oil painting.
  • Dr. Galloway, whose knowledge and love of Art History rubbed off on every student—if you could stay awake after lunch in a dark room looking a slides.
  • Mr. Freemond, the Art Department head, took us on an art tour of Italy one summer. It took eleven days on a ship to get there and back.
  • Mr. Scott, drawing and painting, who brought new ideas as an instructor along with Mr. Calcagno.
  • Mr. Engel, who brought fun to ceramics
  • Mr. Granada who was a wonderful sculptor along with many words.

They were and are unique in their time and in their teaching. The Universities were the best place to be in that day for new thoughts and ideas. It was a time of listening, hearing new ideas, keeping in touch with the art world through the artists your instructors admired, and learning from their own art. It gave me time to think and not be under the pressure of producing for a living.