By Chandler Hall
Martha Fitzwater, Art Professor, said she enjoys the challenges in the art projects she takes on and in her retirement continue to take them on.
At 70, Fitzwater said she’s ready to retire, because by Thursday and Friday she’s tired and she feels how old she is.
Fitzwater began teaching at Southwestern in January 2011 teaching a design class. In 2013, she started teaching a drawing class and she’s been teaching drawing ever since.
She has taught at every grade level and across seven different school districts across the state of Kansas.
“I guess I can’t ever find anywhere to set roots down,” said Fitzwater.
The longest place she taught at was in Paola, Kansas. She taught there for 12 years.
Fitzwater, originally from Winfield, moved back to Winfield, because it was where her mother was still living.
She worked at the Winfield Arts and Humanities Council for four years as artist in residence, while also working in Wellington part time as an art teacher.
When a job at Winfield High-school came open, she was recommended for teaching ceramics and sculpture, and print making and jewelry and a graphic design class.
Fitzwater said she learned more than the kids did in graphic design, because she knew nothing about computers.
Fitzwater said her favorite student she ever had was her mother.
“She never had any art and when I was growing up and was quite the little smart aleck, she took an art class, because she wanted to be able to relate to me better and her stuff was horrible and I told her that,” said Fitzwater. “So she started taking classes with me and her stuff is actually pretty good. Some of my prize possessions are some of her drawings that she did.”
When Fitzwater started teaching her own classes at Southwestern, her kindness and expertise were shown.
Essa Alateeq, digital arts junior said, “I really like her classes. She’s a nice person and I learned a lot from her.”
Students are continually impacted from her class and learn more than just art skills.
Marquis Hodge, business and accounting said, “Honestly, Martha has impacted me in a positive way. She’s helped me get out of my comfort zone and showed me that I can do other things then just being an athlete.”
Hodge said, “It was wonderful getting to know her while she was here, I feel like she’s made a strong impact on my viewpoint on general things. I’ll miss her and her talking about random things.”
Southwestern doesn’t have an art major, so Fitzwater wanted to make sure they were at least getting an appreciation for art and are able to become better consumers.
“I know this is just beginning level work. We don’t have a major and I’m not sending anyone to get an MFA in painting or drawing,” said Fitzwater. “So, I want them to have two things: An appreciation for art and I believe this with all my heart, you guys are going to have a lot of leisure time as you grow up. I’d like to think some of it would be put back into doing art.”
In the years teaching art, Fitzwater was able to impact students’ lives with her experiences.
Hodge said, “She definitely gets them thinking about different perspectives on painting, but also different perspectives of life.”
Many perspectives and stories were shared in Fitzwater’s art class. Fitzwater could only have an innocent laugh, when student’s faced many of the challenges that come with doing artwork.
Fitzwater said, “I know how hard this stuff is when you’re first starting out and all I can do is grin, because I know that if you keep working at you’ll get it.”