Artist Craig Lucas mourned in Kent

Painter, professor emeritus at Kent State was 69


Friends and family of Craig Lucas, local artist and art professor, are confident his impact will be seen for years to come through his work and the work of his students. ?

The painter and Kent State School of Art professor emeritus, well known in Northeastern Ohio’s art community but also among various groups in Kent, died in his sleep April 1 at his home in Kent. He was 69.

“Kent’s just such an art community,” his son Ian Lucas said. “Any gallery around town, any music, any film. He was there.”

?Longtime friend Roger Thurman said it was hard to live in Kent without running into and becoming friends with Lucas, who began teaching at Kent State in 1969.

“He sort of defined that period in the late 60s when Kent was really taking off artistically,” Thurman said. ?

Heidi Shaffer, Lucas’ yoga instructor, said he had just started taking lessons again on Wednesday. ?

“I just have this wonderful memory of Craig being healthy and able to do the exercises. It was not an easy class,” Shaffer said.?

“At least I got to say goodbye to him in a sense.”?

Lucas was active in several facets of Kent society as member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent and the Kent Environmental Council. He practiced yoga, gardened and stayed active in the contemporary art world.?

A friend of more than 40 years, sculptor Brinsley Tyrrell of Freedom Township, went to school with Lucas at the Kent State School of Art in the late 1960s and later worked with him there as a professor.?

He called Lucas a “fixture of the school” who was always devoted to his art.?

“It doesn’t seem possible Craig’s gone,” Tyrrell said.?

Lucas retired from teaching in 2004 but continued creating works for display.

His art was often abstract and toyed with artistic ideas like “networks and systems,” according to a 2008 Plain Dealer article about his winning the Cleveland Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.?

Lucas wanted to be an artist from childhood, drawing from the encouragement of a high school art teacher, and once hitchhiking to New York to see Jackson Pollock’s work.?

“Most of Lucas’ art was sort of very contemporary but somewhat abstract,” Tyrrell said. “It would be a little difficult to categorize.”

?In 2008, his massive piece “Surge,” went on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland — one of the rare works that speak to Lucas’ views on peace and social justice.?

Using images of combat veiled by stars and stripes, Lucas reacted against the war in Iraq.?

“He just hated the war and hated the ideas behind going to war,” Ian Lucas said. ?

Ian Lucas said his father saw parallels between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War. Lucas had also witnessed the shooting at Kent State on May 4, 1970. ?

The Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, said Lucas once delivered impassioned remarks on the intersection of the justice issues that shaped his spirituality and his art.

?“Certainly he was involved through his art,” Carvill-Ziemer said. “He’s had his art on display in the sanctuary, and he’s donated art for our annual service auction.”

?Thurman said he is the proud owner of three works by Lucas. ?

“I go over to his painting on the wall and there’s Craig,” Thurman said. “He’ll always be there. His art is going to live on.”?

A memorial service for Lucas will be held at a later time. Bissler & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory are handling the arrangements.