As the child of a career officer in the U.S. Navy, Karen MacMurray grew up in a lot of places. After graduating from Indiana University, she taught art in Smithville, Indiana’s public schools, then art and English in Pusan, South Korea, for the Department of Defense. “I spent my first 26 years all over,” she says, “and the rest in one place: Dover, Delaware.” She began teaching drawing, painting, watercolors, and design at Wilmington College during her time at Dover High School, where she taught art from 1970 to 2008.
Freedom, finally. “I always said that teaching at Wilmington University was my reward for teach-ing public school all those years. I have found it to be a very faculty-friendly environment. Anything I wanted, I could have, and I didn’t ask for very much. I tried to keep the required supplies list affordable.”
An artist with an MBA? “I earned my MBA at Wilmington College in 1986, while I was teaching high school. They were looking for an arts specialist, and I started teaching right away. I went for a business degree because the art business was popular at the time. The business world seems to be wary of artist types. There was a lack of education on their part, not the artists’ part. Maybe it’s getting better?”
Learning by doing.
I really enjoy watching students learn, and seeing what they produce individually with a color scheme, the illusion of depth, or visual parameters, for instance. I give them as much input as possible, but nothing so specific that they can’t interpret it as their own.
Teaching by learning. “Being a teacher has guided the direction of my art pursuits outside of class. I’d study and discover when I needed to know more, so I could pass that knowledge on to my students. As styles of art change, there is more to pass on to your students, and more for them to try out.”
Never too late. “In one class, a student who was having trouble with a project raised her hand. ‘How come all these older people are doing so well?’ she asked. I told her, just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you’re not learning.”
Just in time. “I retired from WilmU after teaching my first-ever online class, which ended in February 2020. It didn’t have the same energy, and I didn’t have the same connection with my students. I’ve enjoyed working with college students. But I really like my garden.”
— David Bernard