An Artist and Natural Born Teacher

When I graduated from high school, I was deeply frustrated and resentful, as most teenagers were in those times. A particular point of contention for me and my parents, was the fact that, with three younger brothers behind me, it was impossible for my parents to send me to a “real” college. The plan was to send each of us to the local community college for two years and then a four-year school after that. I was ready for college, not some two-bit technical school.

The Sunday after my graduation, the family drove over to Gaston College (our local 2-year community college) to attend their open-house. I tried very hard not to let on that I was not entirely unimpressed by the school, its library, student union, and even the technical school, which specialized in mechanical engineering. But there was this little old house on the outskirts of the campus that kept drawing my attention. So finally, I suggested that we walk down to the house and see what it was.

Approaching the building, in much need of painting, we saw a rather elaborately sculptured sign, Art Department. Art was not one of my interests. I was much more drawn to music as an avenue of expression, but we walked on in and found two young and highly enthusiastic men, taking a couple of families on a tour of their facility and the courses that they taught. I was captivated by the tools, materials, the junk pile they had in the back, including a dilapidated old Volvo. I was most captivated by the teachers, Frank Creech and Dexter Benedict. I turned to my Dad and said, I want to sign up tomorrow. So I started Gaston College that summer semester, and for the next two years, went non-stop, taking, along with college parallel, almost every art class they offered, and some of them twice, enjoying the sculpture the most.

Frank Creech taught most of my classes, and what I remember most about this teacher was that he seemed to spend as much time listening as talking. It didn’t matter what sort of something you brought in to work with, or what tools you selected to reshape it and mix it with other stuff. He would listen to you talk about it and help you to discover the art in it.

I haven’t seen him since I left Gaston in 1972, though I continued to hear of his work as an artist and teacher. Frank Creech died this week. The world is a little less interesting without him.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.