Art scholar connects with students through passion for painting

Riechart's Pond in Late Summer a painting by VanVoorhis

Riechart’s Pond in Late Summer a painting by VanVoorhis | Courtesy Cathy VanVoorhis





As she swipes her brush full of paint across a broad canvas, Cathy VanVoorhis leaves a wave of color and inspiration in her wake as a part-time art instructor at Washtenaw Community College and at the Stamps School of Art at the University of Michigan.

“My mother was an artist, and she taught art at a community college,” VanVoorhis said. “It’s funny because I followed in her footsteps. She loved teaching, as I do.”

VanVoorhis always loved to draw and to paint, and even attended college in France.

“I was majoring in French, and they had an option to study abroad,” VanVoorhis said. “I lived with a family in France. It was absolutely wonderful.”

Not sure if she was going to major in art or not, VanVoorhis visited many museums wherever she traveled.

“I still remember the distinct moment that I was in the George Pompidou Center in Paris, and I was looking at the Picasso and Matisse paintings,” Vanvoorhis said. “I thought, I have to pursue this same path, because what they’re doing is so important.”

Carolyn Swift, a 57-year-old retiree from her former job as a teacher at Clarkston Community Schools and now a full-time artist, attended college with VanVoorhis.

“Cathy is deeply thoughtful, and reflective,” Swift said. “She’s deeply connected with nature, and her work is really about that, about capturing this moment, and this connection to a place.”

Because VanVoorhis and Swift held the same profession, they connected on that level and were able to share experiences.

“We were both teachers, so we would talk things over through the years,” Swift said. “I think because her background and experience is so broad and deep, that she would be able to connect with all sorts of students on so many levels.”

Connecting with students is something that VanVoorhis does well, according to Molly Prout, a 19-year-old possible computer programming major from Howell, Michigan, who is in her basic drawing class.

“So far, she’s very welcoming. She critiques your artwork in a positive way,” Prout said. “Like even if you do something completely wrong, she makes it positive, and she makes it better.”

As both a teacher and an artist, VanVoorhis has shown her appreciation for art and the process of creating it. Through her work, she shows her connection to nature and to things bigger than herself.

Riechart’s Pond in Late Summer, a painting created by VanVoorhis, won the Juror’s Award of Merit for 2-D work for the Annual Greater Michigan Art Exhibition. This winning painting was shown at the Midland Center for the Arts through Sept. 11.

“It was part of a collaboration between artists and the Legacy Land Conservancy of Southeast Michigan,” VanVoorhis said. “They asked the artists to go to certain places that were being preserved according to the law about setting aside land so that it’s not developed, and can paint pictures of it to make the public more aware.”






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