At the Mary R. Koch School of Visual Arts, instruction and inspiration are a two-way street.
“Seeing what the students are doing kind of motivates me,” said Doug Billings, who teaches printmaking at the school. “That kind of gets me going.”
As for the instructors, “The caliber of teachers at the center is top-notch,” student Melinda Weis said. “They have brought me so far.”
Art by instructors and students will be featured Friday through July 6 in an exhibit at the school, which is housed in The Wichita Center for the Arts. Hundreds of works, including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture and photography, will be on display. A reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday kicks off the exhibition.
Billings, like most of the instructors, is a part-time teacher at the school, working as a graphic artist during the day. One of the pieces he’ll show is a stone lithograph called “City No. 7.”
“It’s kind of a collage of the downtown area, the landmarks,” he said. “They (viewers) can kind of recognize ‘that’s this building,’ just little bits and pieces. I like to play with composition and perspective. They kind of have to puzzle them out for themselves.”
Billings works downtown and is president of Gallery XII, an artists cooperative that’s also located there.
Printmaking is a technique that originally started as a way for artists to run off multiple images of an artwork. Now, with the precise copying ability of digital technology, it’s more of a way to add character to an image that may just be one part of a work.
“Most printmakers now, they’re doing multimedia, they’re just taking everything they can and throwing it all in there,” Billings said.
That type of work will be on display, Billings said, including pieces by his friend and fellow instructor Kathleen Shanahan, a retired professor of art.
“I’m kind of traditional while Kathleen is very contemporary. I like it to be all lithography, or etching, or whatever.”
Billings also paints, but he said he teaches printmaking because it’s fairly rare, requiring an expensive press among other equipment. He leaves his press set up at the center.
“It’s a very process-oriented art-making form,” he said. “You have to have facilities. There aren’t many active printmakers in Wichita. If somebody goes through a four-year university as an art major, they might have one printmaking class.”
Billings has been making prints since his days as an art major in the 1970s. He has taught at the school for 12 years. “I enjoy it, that’s why I do it,” he said.
Weis has taken classes at the center since 2001, winning several student awards.
“Oh wow, everything,” she said when asked what she’d learned there. “I’ve learned how to improve my craft, the actual painting. I’ve learned archival practices, I’ve learned professional presentation. It’s just hard to say everything I learned. I would not be where I am today without the classes at the Center for the Arts.”
Weis works mainly in oils. One piece she’ll show is “Cherry Noir,” a still life of a single cherry throwing off a shadow, “very reminiscent of film noir.”
“I would consider myself a contemporary realist. It’s still realism, but my subject matter and composition aren’t what I consider traditional,” she said.
Weis also studied painting in college, but has spent recent years working for a church in Derby. Now she is focusing on art full time.
“I guess I always thought being an artist was just really outside of my reach. I got my kids into high school and I decided, you know what, just go for it. It was the best decision I ever made.”