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Remembering a master teacher: Frank Wachowiak.

Remembering A Master Teacher

There was magic on those Saturday mornings during the late sixties and early seventies when I helped Frank Wachowiak teach art to children at the University of Georgia. Wachowiak always arrived earlier than I. He looked forward all week to the joy on those children's faces as he worked with them on a new idea, a variation on an old technique or an adventurous exploration of media. We always had at least one lunch together during the preceding week where the conversation revolved around plans for the upcoming children's class.

Frank Wachowiak wrestled with questions such as how can we motivate children to be more creative, to stay with an idea longer, and exploit the media as skills are acquired? Wachowiak's passion in his professional life rested in his desire to help children relish a well-drawn mark with crayon, delight in coloring with oil pastels and experience the satisfaction of completing a composition full of rich embellishments and intricate complexities. Wachowiak literally agonized over discovering better ways to help teachers plan, prepare and present instruction in order to encourage a qualitative in-depth approach in the art of their students.

There were certainly many influences that helped Wachowiak develop into the master art educator, author, lecturer and child art expert that he became in his fifty-year tenure. From my perspective, it was in 1965, (when I first met him) that the die was cast, his destiny forged by a trip to Tokyo to represent the University of Iowa at the Eighth International Art Education Congress. 1965 was also the same year that he received his appointment to the University of Georgia.

In Japan Wachowiak documented many qualitative examples of Japanese child art. He was encouraged to find supporting visual evidence of a program of art teaching that was similar to his approach. The influence of Japanese art education practices on his own strategy of teaching art was profound. To this day Wachowiak's discussions about art education rarely steer far from his love and respect for Japanese child art.

As a result of repeated travels to the Far East, Wachowiak became an ardent and knowledgeable collector of rare Oriental art, including Shinto and Buddhist sculpture, netsuke, masks, wood block prints, painted scrolls and screens. I have spent many afternoons listening to him discuss the Oriental aesthetic and how it differs from our own limited approach to beauty.

One area of aesthetic development that has always fascinated Wachowiak is the eidetic (unusually vivid) memory of the oriental child. He often posed the question, "What is it about the oriental culture that affords these children the ability to draw in great detail and vividly remember the places that they have visited?" Wachowiak would ponder ways that he could instill and develop in his students this love of detail, ability to visually recall and to stay with an image until the space of the composition is filled with meaningful marks.

It was an exhilarating experience to watch Frank Wachowiak teach. His frequent utilization of nature as a source of inspiration, his constant use of varied motivational materials, his strong emphasis on the importance of the preliminary drawing, his judicious employment of the perennial art principles and his refinement of a host of art techniques form a legacy for future art educators. Frank Wachowiak's research into child art continues to influence the field with a strong reminder of what the heart and soul of child art is -- the making of art.

PHOTO : Flowers, watercolor, by a Japanese girl, age II.

Dr. Jimmy D. Morris is Fine Arts Coordinator, Clarke County School District, Athens, Georgia. Children's art shown in this article is from the collection of Frank Wachowiak
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Title Annotation:includes two pages of Frank Wachowiak's art lesson projects
Author:Morris, Jimmy Oliver
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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