Community remembers a long-serving faculty member
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 00:01
For friends, John Maul was unconventionally compassionate. For fellow faculty members, he was described as a touch stone for students’ creativity and futures.
On Nov. 22, Maul passed away from cancer.
“I would go into his office and talk with John pretty often,” said Kim Smith, Oregon State Art alumna. “One time we were both having just a really bad day and he invited me into his office and said, ‘I think we should be dancing.’ He put on David Bowie and we danced to ‘Rebel Rebel.’ He was very much a father figure for me.”
Maul was a native Oregonian and OSU alumnus. He graduated with a degree in sculpture in 1977, prior to attaining a master of fine arts degree in sculpture at Syracuse University. After teaching there and working as an artist in resident in New York public schools between 1980 and 1985, Ball State University appointed him head of the sculpture program. Soon after, he met his wife Kay Campbell.
The sculptures Maul created explored a variety of scales, forms and themes. Early on, his large, public works were intended for outdoor spaces. His more recent work explored architectural forms with influences from religious iconography and archeology. Surface treatments, cast metals and symmetrical forms shared compositions with organic materials such as untreated wood, paper and encaustics.
Maul returned to OSU in 1991 to teach sculpture and art appreciation. A few years later, he become the founding director in the very successful summer arts program called Jumpstart.
As a program still active during the summer months, Jumpstart provides high school students an opportunity for hands-on art experiences. Kim Smith was one of the first students who participated in the program.
“I met [Maul] when I was a freshman in high school and he changed my life,” Smith said. “As the director [of Jumpstart] he put his heart and soul in to the program. He was kooky and crazy and was always telling jokes.”
For students who were fortunate enough to have him as a professor for introduction to the visual arts, his unwavering passion for art was easily recognizable.
“It takes a showman to teach that class,” said Jim Folts, OSU photography professor and friend of Maul. “The course has one of the highest enrollment rates on campus. John loved to be in front of the his audience and he put a great amount of effort into making art accessible to students.”
Smith attested to Maul’s enthusiasm.
“Art 101 was his baby,” Smith said. “It was a chance for him to reveal his passion to a huge number of students.”
In 2006, Maul became the chairman of the Oregon State art department and four years later, became the director of the school of arts and communication which included the art, music, new media communications, speech and theatre departments. Yuji Hiratsuka, a professor of printmaking at Oregon State, recalls John’s relatable nature.
“When Kay and John would go to their loft in Portland for a weekend, he would put their cat in a ‘cat taxi’ and take her with them,” Hiratsuka said.
She described Maul as able to do these intimate things while simultaneously organizing and coordinating the department of art. Small gestures, like making sure to bring a beloved pet along on vacations, may seem to contrast with the large-scale role he played in the department but, as Folts said, “John loved everything that he did.”
Smith recalled Maul’s influence on her.
“So many things happen to you while you’re getting where you’re going,” Smith said. “John and the Jumpstart program and the OSU art department while he was chairman was a big influence on me. I went on to have a good life because of him.”
Maul’s wife, Kay Campbell, is hosting a tribute reception for him. It will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. in the C&E auditorium of the LaSells Stewart Center. All are invited to attend.
Alice Marshall, arts reporter