Karl and artist Jeff Barrett.
The Perfect Aquarium, 2019.
In my grade school in Ohio, we had an art teacher, Miss Rinda, who went from classroom to classroom. She was wonderful. Every holiday art class would be filled with turkeys, pumpkins, Santas, Easter eggs or snowmen—enough to cover every parent’s refrigerator door. When I entered fourth grade I found, to my surprise, that Miss Rinda was going to be my teacher for the year.
On some holidays at our school, teachers would have students decorate their homerooms and then we would file in and out of the rooms like a parade to see the decorations. Thanksgiving rolled around and everybody started to get ready for the art project in our homeroom. Miss Rinda walked in with huge rolls of brown paper, proceeded to cover the entire back wall with the paper and sketched out an image for us, while explaining what it was. I was one of four students she picked to work on the project. She opened several boxes of really big pieces of chalk and we spent the next few days coloring in everything, under her instruction. A lot of fun! The day finally arrived and we couldn’t wait to show the students and teachers the masterpiece on the back wall: a huge picture of the painting The Death of General Wolfe. It was great, just great.
My senior year of high school my favorite art teacher was Emil Perunko. At the beginning of the year he handed me an application for a scholarship to Columbus College of Art and Design, saying, “You might as well not bother, you’ll never win.” Well, of course, to a 16-year-old... you know how that goes. I got my portfolio together and, with the help of my neighbor, photographed it and sent it off. Four months later I received word that I was awarded a scholarship. “IN YOUR FACE, EMIL!”
I married, graduated and moved to Colorado, and sometime later I got my transcripts from CCAD. When I opened them, there was a letter that Perunko had written, saying that I would make a great addition to their student body. I sure didn’t expect to see that.
Decades later, I reconnected with Emil Perunko. We were talking on the phone and I asked him about that letter. I told him what a difference it had made in my life. “That’s what teachers are supposed to do,” he replied. He said in all his years he had never had a group of students so talented. The students he was referring to were the four of us from Miss Rinda’s class who had worked on The Death of General Wolfe for our classroom Thanksgiving project.
Love you, Miss Rinda. Love you, Emil.
Maine view? Anywhere along the ocean.
Drink? Gin and tonic.
Maine restaurant? Of course, it’s Chase’s Daily.
Place you’ve traveled to as an adult? Guatemala.
Shoes? Nice Kiss boots with a goldfish in the heels.
Way to relax? Gin and tonic.