Art professor says goodbye

Mary Warner in the art room.

After 16 years at the university, Associate Professor of Art Mary Werner is set to retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Mary Werner, director of visual arts, was hired as a professor at Newman University in 2003 and has impacted the lives of many students, faculty and artists throughout the years since. Among her major achievements, she redesigned and grew the art program and enhanced the exhibition activities of the Steckline Gallery.

There were only three art students when Werner began her career at Newman, so her first task was to research programs at comparable schools and revamp the art requirements at Newman.

The number of students in the program grew as well as the number of disciplines. Today, there are seven disciplines offered within the art major.

Werner also took charge of the Steckline Gallery, arranging a total of 86 exhibits throughout the years she acted as gallery director.

Each exhibit required her to call for and review submissions, work with artists, hang exhibits, and paint and patch the walls after each show.

Helping local, national and international artists present their work in a professional gallery is something Werner said she highly enjoyed, adding that she also appreciated the many relationships she formed and maintained through the gallery.

“I think I developed the gallery into something that Newman can be proud of and the Wichita community supports,” she explained. To Werner, running the gallery was her way of giving back to Newman, she said.

Werner gave back to the students by starting the tradition of “Art for Lunch” — an event at which students listen to a lecture from the artist whose work is currently on exhibit in the gallery.

Werner said one of the proudest moments of her career was winning the James P. Mesa American Association of University Professors Academic Freedom Award for the 2015-16 academic year. 

Voted on by a faculty committee, the award “academically, and as a teacher, was probably the biggest pat on the back,” said Werner.

The award is given to a faculty member who has shown strong support for students and their ideas, something Werner said she enjoyed most as a teacher.

“I think the most exciting thing that I’ve experienced here is just students,” said Werner. “I hope that they’ve taken something I’ve said or done into their life.”

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