Westminster professor taught life lessons while teaching ceramics
After 38 years at Westminster College, art professor Kay Kuzminski would prefer to ride off quietly into the sunset.
She's an institution at the school, but she "hates the limelight" and declined to talk about herself as she prepares to retire. But her students and former students were happy to talk about one of the campus' most legendary figures.
"Kay is an awesome teacher," said Ben Olp, a senior from Tacoma, Wash. "She really pushes people to become better artists and better people. Taking her class is definitely life-changing."
Olp is an art major who has spent the past eight years immersed in ceramics. Amanda Corbin is an English major who's in the midst of taking her first ceramics class.
"My roommate is an art major and has worked with Kay a few times," said Corbin, from New Albany, Ohio. "She insisted that I take advantage of this last class. And Kay has been so great.
"I really enjoy her. She's very upfront and honest about everything. She says, 'This is fun and you can do it your whole life.' We talk about art, we talk about life."
The phrases "life lessons" and "life-changing" come up a lot when Kuzminski's students talk about her. Along with "giving back" and "contributing to society."
Kuzminski and her students have been doing that for four decades with annual pottery sales, featuring the work of the professor and her students and benefitting a variety of charities. (This year, the proceeds will go to Salt Lake County Animal Services.)
Wednesday was Kuzminski's final sale at Westminster, and, not surprisingly, "all her pots went first, because people get it. They're all looking for the KK," said Rosemary Mitchell, a former student who's now a visual arts specialist for the Granite School District.
"I wouldn't miss it," she said. "I save my personal days for this. Working with Kay has changed my life."
Kuzminkski has a reputation for both making art a hands-on experience and for making it a part of larger lessons.
"She not only teaches these students to work clay, she also teaches them to become global citizens," said LeAnn Peterson, the art studio assistant at Westminster. "To get involved and contribute. And Kay champions all of the underdogs of the world. She gives life lessons."
And her impending retirement marks the end of an era at the college.
"Her classes are always full they're wait-listed forever," Peterson said. "We're all sorry to see her go, and I'm sorry for all the students who won't have a chance to be in her class."