She always knew she had to create, and Katherine “K” Rhynus Cesark ’88 has always stayed true to this deep-seated passion. For the past 25 years, she has been sharing the lessons learned at Plymouth State with art students at Colorado Mountain College, where she is a professor and art gallery director.
K employs a variety of media in her own work, allowing the subject matter to influence the modality of expression. “I narrate situations and conditions through compositions that address emotions and predicaments. Some are calm and easy, and some are not as gentle,” she says. This rather unique approach was introduced to her at Plymouth State, where faculty mentors fostered a sense of connection within the program.
Her professors were also working artists engaged in the field, welcoming students as colleagues in the greater world of art. “They were making art alongside the students,” K recalls. “We were all artists, learning and growing together.” She found the latitude to explore a host of different mediums that helped her grow as both artist and educator.
K credits Professors Bob Morton, Terry Downs, and Sue Bennett Tucker among many others with adapting their programs to best suit students’ needs while maintaining strong academic rigor.
Morton recognized an early interest and ability in K as an educator and put her on the spot by bringing her in to assist with his class. “Bob was a tough role model, and that’s exactly what I needed at the time,” K recalls. She absorbed the “teaching as learning” concept.
Downs went the extra mile for students by transforming unused space in Samuel Reed Hall into PSU’s first printmaking studio. K takes inspiration from this example today, when in the face of a global pandemic she has secured space and loaned personal supplies and materials to students. Downs also started a local art gallery in the greater Plymouth area, which became a home for many students’ first off-campus exhibits. The experience of displaying work to the “outside world” officially welcomed them into a community of artists. Now a gallery director herself, K uses the space in much the same way knowing the impact it has on growing artists.
After her undergraduate experience at Plymouth State, K earned her MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The opening of her thesis exhibit was attended by her professors from Plymouth State. She had come full circle, taking her place in the art world where she continues to inspire those with a passion for creating.
She currently chairs Colorado Mountain College’s Department of Art, Theatre, Music and Dance and recently received the faculty of the year award. “This award was a big honor considering we went to remote instruction for the last part of 2020,” she says. “That was partly why I received this recognition, because of my efforts to make that transition meaningful for both students and faculty. I owe those awards to the faculty at Plymouth State. Their mentorship is the reason that I am passionate about teaching, learning, and making.”