Jim Versch has made the Marion High School art classroom his second home for the past 31 years. But all that has changed with his retirement after this past school year.
“There might have been a bit of a burnout, but more I was at the age I could retire through KPERS and young enough that I could do something else,” Versch said about his decision. “I don’t plan to continue teaching, but I will always create.”
Versch said he already has a number of new projects lined up, including a sculpture crafted from musical instruments and a portrait.
“Plus,” he added, “I always complete a work of art based on Santa Claus for my wife at Christmas time.”
Versch said he enjoyed art in high school and took as many courses as possible. He continued his art studies into college, where he decided to combine teaching and art.
“There were a few teachers in my family,” he said. “My mother went back to school and became a teacher, plus my favorite uncle was a teacher and coach.
“I always thought they both had cool jobs and I think it must have influenced me.”
Variety of media
Like most artists, Versch said he has enjoyed creating art in a variety of media.
“My favorite medium early was watercolor,” he said. “But I later developed my airbrushing skills and I also became very comfortable with Photoshop—so my electronic art was some of my favorites recently. I have also began doing more sculpture pieces and found object.”
Versch said he has gained inspiration from many different artists, incorporating their ideas into his own.
Some of his favorites include Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, Norman Rockwell, M.C. Escher, Edward Weston and Andrew Wyeth.
“My range of artists go from sculptors to illustrators to photographers to painters,” Versch said. “Their influences kind of depend on what medium I am working in.”
Canvas to classroom
Versch took his love of art into the classroom, saying the most rewarding aspect of his work was being able to reach students that perhaps did not excel in other areas.
“Being an elective course, most students choose your course because they want to be there,” he said. “Plus, just allowing students to use their creativity and watching the excitement of them achieving something (is rewarding).”
One of his favorite projects with his students, Versch said, was allowing senior advanced art students to create a ceiling tile that represented them in some way.
He said numerous Marion High School students have pursued art-related careers, including graphic design, architecture, illustrations, art education and painting.
“It is rewarding to know that you have been an influence in their lives,” Versch said. “Hopefully they were a bit more prepared because of my program.”
Artistic accomplishments aside, Versch said the most meaningful aspect of his time teaching was watching his students mature from shy freshmen to confident seniors.
He cited as an example Jessie Taylor, Marion High School graduate this past May, who will be majoring in art at Virginia Commonwealth University this fall.
“Marion High School was my first teaching job and I taught here for 31 years,” Versch said. “I coached football, volleyball, basketball and golf throughout those years at different times.
“It has been a very rewarding experience and I will miss it.”