"I don't teach classes. I teach individuals." Sidney ("Sid") Larson (1923-2009), teacher extraordinaire

Columbia College Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art Sid Larson, who passed away May 21, was named an honorary alumnus in 2001 for an incredible half-century of inspiring, motivating and bringing out the best in faculty and students.

A memorial service will be held in Launer Auditorium, Saturday, June 20, at 10:30 a.m. with a reception immediately following in the Dulany Hall Banquet Room, Columbia College Campus.

Colleagues and students praised Sid's light, eclectic teaching style, a style perhaps influenced by his own work. Larson's painting style runs the gamut. It can't be pigeonholed. Larson's curiosity and artistic flexibility is probably one reason he was such a good teacher.

Tom Watson, art professor at Columbia College for more than 30 years, said Larson's teaching style and enthusiasm helped the art department bloom. "When I first came here, our enrollment jumped so quickly... whenever a broom closet opened up he'd see it as a possible place to put a student."

David O'Hagan, a music professor emeritus who taught at the college for 35 years, was a close friend and co-best man at Larson's 2003 wedding to Mary Wells. O'Hagan said, "Really every teacher should see him teach... I learned how to communicate with sensitivity, to students and to everybody from him."

One student greatly influenced by Larson is Larry Young '76. Young is perhaps best known for his monumental outdoor sculptures; a fine example sits in front of Dulany Hall and another at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City. Young studied sculpture at Columbia College under Larson, followed by a two-year fellowship studying sculpture in Italy that Larson helped set up.

Young is not reticent in speaking about Larson. "I owe my life to Sid Larson … He is the reason I am an artist,” he said. Young also was a close friend and co-best man at Larson's 2003 wedding; Young named his daughter Sidney. Young further organized "Larson's Legacy," an exhibit of the work of Larson and about a dozen former students in Columbia, Mo., in 2005.

Another example of a successful student is Marc Bohne '77. When Larson said all his students need not be artists, "Be a chef! Be a photographer! Life is good to those who take a chance and explore," Bohne took this to heart. After a 20-year hiatus, Bohne started painting again in the late 1990s and met with swift acclaim. His landscapes are now world famous. Bohne said that Larson inspired him and is "godfather to us all."

Pamela Lenck Bradford '80, who was juror of Columbia College’s 19th and 20th Annual Paper in Particular exhibitions, is known for her use of color and the liveliness of her large still lifes. She also is known for meticulous book illustrations. Bradford said that while Larson taught art, life was his real subject: "Art was the vehicle for lessons on character," she said.

In 2002, Larson said, "Teaching is a calling," not just a vocation. "It's fulfilling, it's worthwhile. And it’s selfish," because a teacher gets the thrill out of seeing talent blossom. "And they pay you for it!"

"Art is a way to look into the heart and mind."

Larson's influence and inspiration lives on today through the George Ann and Sidney Larson Scholarship Fund and the Sidney Larson Student Art Award. For more information, contact the Columbia College Development office, 1001 Rogers St., Columbia, MO 65216; (573) 875-7563.


Anonymous said...

Sidney Larson was a fantastic teacher and a warm human being. The lessons I learned from him have stayed with me for more than 30 years. I still think about him each and every time I wash a paintbrush or see a mural. He will be greatly missed! R.I.P., Uncle Sid.

Brian Mahieu said...

One of Sid’s most impressive qualities was his profound respect for the individual. He never attempted to impose his personal tastes or style on the student. Rather he encouraged the student to find his or her own way, I should say he insisted the student find their own way to solve an artistic problem. Our individual preferences and working methods were treated with respect and nurtured. When I returned from a visit from France with a fire in my belly to paint outside like the Impressionists, Sid allowed me to do this. I was able to paint in the field during the week and meet with him to work together and be critiqued on what I had done one day a week. I have often said he gave me graduate school opportunities as an under grad student. For me, being taught by Sid was something like being slathered in a miraculous healing balm. He made me see my own artistic voice was valid and even needed in our world. Through the warm light of his encouragement, he took a broken soul and taught it to sing.

Brian Mahieu, BFA ‘89

Anonymous said...

Don L. Landers, trustee and Christian College business manager 1965-1969

Sid and I go way back. I knew him well before 1965 … over the years I bought several paintings. I am a real fan of his art.

Sid shepherded me through some things from a faculty point of view. I became business manager when I was just 26 and I had not a clue. The accounting part I knew well, but Sid helped with the relationships. You couldn’t go wrong with Sid.

I would go to his home to play pool about once a month. He loved to shoot pool, and Sid won a lot because it was his table!

He was one of the finest people I ever met. He didn't know any strangers. He had something good to say about everybody. He was a good friend and I will miss him.