PLYMOUTH — New England artist and educator Kathi Smith of Center Harbor has been selected by students, alumni and colleagues as the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Lecturer at Plymouth State University.
This annual award recognizes excellence in teaching by a PSU teaching lecturer. Recipients demonstrate qualities such as comprehensive knowledge of subject, ability to stimulate student thinking, understanding and interest in learning, respect and value for students as individuals, ability to create a safe classroom environment in which all may participate comfortably, passion for teaching and inspiration for students to achieve at their highest abilities inside and outside of the classroom.
Smith says, “I believe in, care about and know my students. The core of my teaching philosophy is to nurture meaningful relationships with students by listening to and guiding them with empathy and trust, and understanding that every day is an opportunity to grow. I ask that like me, they come to the classroom with open minds to listen, speak and relate to others in an honest and authentic way. I share my stories, experiences in the field, and some of my own challenges in my art practice to remind them that we are all human, and striving to do our best.”
Students and colleagues alike respond enthusiastically to her art and to her teaching, describing Smith as talented, thoughtful, genuine and kind-hearted. One colleague called her the personification of excellence in her role as artist and teacher.
“She is incredibly talented in studio art, but that is matched by her ability to reach students. They respond to her respectfully and enthusiastically. She sets the bar high; consequently they learn at a professional level,” a former PSU colleague wrote.
A student described her as “focused, attentive and understanding.” Another wrote that she “helped me become more comfortable with my own methods of creation. I have been encouraged to explore many different themes and through that exploration I have come to find my own voice.”
“Kathi Smith is a dedicated and caring teacher evidenced by the nominations from her students and colleagues,” says Julie Bernier, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We are fortunate to have Kathi among our teaching lecturers and I’m so pleased that she was chosen by her colleagues as this year’s recipient.”
Smith’s studio work reflects her landscape, in which she invites close observation of familiar-seeming places and their narratives.
“I am interested in the role of place in any one person’s development. In particular, how the visual memory of a place can be conjured through sensation, such as color, light and touch,” she said in a 2013 interview for Artscope Magazine.
Smith’s reputation and career are growing rapidly. Over the past three years she has participated in many regional and national exhibitions and four prestigious residencies. She received a full fellowship supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation to the Vermont Studio Center, and has been a fellow and artist-in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, and the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation in Maine. This summer she will participate in a seven-week artist residence in Brittany, France, sponsored by the Maryland Institute College of Art.
She holds an MFA (painting) from UNH and the BFA (painting and drawing) from the University of Maine.
“The university experience provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to build lifelong relationships, find mentors and create networks, so I often remind them to use this time to exchange ideas and use everyone around them as a resource for learning. My role may be to facilitate and lead each class, but I believe each of us has something to teach and everyone contributes to learning,” Smith said.