Kent painter to be honored by Ohio Arts Council

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

Kent resident and painter Joseph O'Sickey, born in 1918, has devoted his lifetime to painting. This year he will mark two more milestones: "Unifying Art, Life and Love," a major life retrospective at the Canton Museum of Art and the Individual Award in the Ohio Arts Council's Governor's Awards for the Arts in May.

Cleveland-born O'Sickey has been an active member of the Ohio artistic community for more than seven decades, as both an artist and a teacher.

"I wanted a more exciting visual life," he said. "My father said to us when we were kids, 'Do anything you want to do in life, but be good at it and do it now,' and he encouraged us. He didn't care what we did, but he said, 'You have to practice, you have to do it now.'"

And not long after, O'Sickey began to draw. At 4 years old, he began sketching the barnyard birds his grandmother hatched. As he grew up, his subjects shifted to the Akron racetracks, sights in Burma, where he was stationed in the Army, and whatever inspired him at the moment, he said.

O'Sickey's teaching career began in 1946 at Ohio State University and lasted until his 1984 retirement from Kent State University.

He also worked as a faculty member of the Cleveland Institute of Art and Akron Institute, and took on jobs outside of education, including fashion painting, architectural rendering and perfume advertising, he said.

And even though he's retired from education, O'Sickey continues to instill a passion for art in young students through the creation of a sketchbook program in Portage County schools, which has in turn led some parents to rediscover drawing as well.

"A lot of people told me they were very interested in drawing in school but they'd stopped," he said. "There's only two requirements for sketching: Use the whole page and choose one thing, then relate everything to that one thing."

He added that his teaching methods never allowed for criticism.

"I believe in helping people, so I don't have critiques. I don't like them," O'Sickey said.

O'Sickey has had more than 50 solo exhibitions throughout his life, and shared a few with Algesa O'Sickey, his wife of 60 years, before her death in 2006.

The "Unifying Art, Life and Love," retrospective at the Canton Museum of Art runs from May 11 to July 29, and is supported by grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Ohio Humanities Council. A documentary to be released through PBS will coincide with the exhibit as well.

O'Sickey will also receive his Individual Award during the Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio on May 15 -- Arts Day -- to commemorate a life's dedication.

"I'm very happy to get it, because it comes from a lot of people who voted for that," O'Sickey said. "One thing I'm very grateful for in my life is all of the encouragement I got from different people and different artists. I can't thank them all and they were wonderful and generous."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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