Art Professor Deborah Kuster has taught art education at UCA for 16 years, but after the spring 2019 semester, she is retiring.
Kuster has been involved in art education for more than 40 years, and has taught all ages in schools, museums and community centers. She has been teaching at UCA since 2003.
There was a reception at UCA Downtown Sept. 21 where Kuster’s current exhibit, “The Makings of a Teacher: Textile Art by Deborah Kuster” is on display until Oct. 1.
The exhibit showcases many of Kuster’s quilted artworks, as well as publications in which her work has been featured. Attendees munched on hors d’oeuvres while viewing the pieces and talked to Kuster about them as jazz played softly in the background.
Many attendees were Kuster’s former students, themselves now teachers. UCA alumna Brianna Peterson said Kuster’s retirement is a loss for students in the art education program.
“I feel sadness that students won’t get to experience her [anymore],” Peterson said. “But there’s no way she will stop teaching or being an artist.”
UCA alumna Marianne Nolley said Kuster had a “huge impact on her life.”
She described Kuster as effervescent and enthusiastic, and said Kuster cares a lot about her students.
“I would not be where I am without professor Kuster,” Nolley said. “I’m sad a little [at her retirement]. But I want her to do whatever brings her joy.”
“The Makings of a Teacher” features a variety of Kuster’s artwork. Those in attendance viewed hanging art like “Deal With It,” a piece inspired by Kuster’s grandson, as well as works of sculpture like “Vulnerable” and “Broken,” both made while she was reflecting on the loss of her father. All Kuster’s works employ fabrics that are hand-loomed by the artist on her 40-inch Gillmore loom, which she then pieces together in a patchwork style.
Kuster said that retirement is a “new season,” for her.
“We’ll see what carries over, what takes a new look,” Kuster said.
The latest piece at the reception was made earlier that morning by Kuster and a group of teachers who attended a professional development workshop that Kuster hosted. The workshop ,titled “Reflecting Together on Curriculum, Student Engagement and Resiliency,” was held at UCA Downtown. The piece was untitled.
The piece is a collage that exhibits some of the patchwork features found in Kuster’s art by weaving together pieces of paper with ideas written by the teachers in attendance at the workshop. The aim of the workshop was to give teachers new ideas for lessons in their own classrooms and to let them share what inspires them about teaching with other educators.
Kuster also hosted a student reunion at the McAlister Hall Mirror Room from noon to
3 p.m. Sept. 22. Kuster’s current and former students mingled and reconnected during the party. Kuster provided name tags with pieces of fabric she made on her loom. Students arrived with their families, suggesting just how much had changed since their time at UCA. Despite this, when they talked to Kuster, it seemed as though they had never left.
Photo by Taylor Sone