A Retrospective

Darrell Schultz looks back over his career as a fortunate mentor of students working in the field of the visual arts and photography.

If I were to display nothing but the award-winning artworks and photographs of my former students, they would literally number in the thousands, I was that blessed by student talent. I wish there were space enough to make viable, viewable web pages to give a showcase for all those deserving students. What you see on this website's galleries of my former students' works is a mere sampling of the engaging pieces they shared with viewers...everywhere.  [I was the first person in Cache to have internet service and, soon thereafter, the program's first website--filled with similar imagery to what you'll see here--caught the eye of Janet Mozak in Canada.  Janet was a wonderful young woman who ran 'A.N.O.S.A.' (A Network of Student Art) Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  She was so impressed with what she thought were 'collegiate pieces' that she contacted me.  When she learned ALL of my student works, on that first internet website, were done by students in grades 8-12, she very kindly invited us to come to Canada to show and sell the pieces within her gallery.  That, by itself, is a story deserving of its own webpage!  Three years later, I would be packing to begin my college teaching career.  As much as I loved, loved, loved teaching in college, no accolades could ever top the visit I made to Canada--with about twenty students past and present--as 'U.S. Ambassadors of Art to Canada' (as Janet called our crew.)]

I was lucky enough, during my teaching career, to be invited to speak at staff development programs at other schools, affront fellow art instructors, and when visiting the classrooms of their own interested student artists and photographers. Those speeches, seminars, and workshops involved slide shows where a number of works consistently drew rave reviews from onlookers. I have used some of those in the gallery of student artworks and photos on this website.

I believed that every student was different and, during the first couple of weeks of school, I carefully watched them--like a coach looking at athletes and trying to decide what position in that sport was best suited for that individual--and evaluated their potential. I would then try to have students take on assignments that would build their self-esteem.  We worked together to find and get them to fall in love with media that was seemingly custom-made for their particular skill set. After all, nothing breeds future success for a student than having had past successes.  Probably nothing in my slides of student works amazed other people more than how many works were remarkably mature as well as the number of 'successes' my students had using a medium for the very first time. I taught 'people,' not 'art and photography.' With so many promising students in my classrooms, I often merely had to make a connection with the student and hone existing skills.


Though 'talent' is of great benefit in producing 'WOW!' artwork and photography, other factors must also be weighed and utilized. Two, self-proclaimed comments I spouted tens of thousands of times were, "The artist sees the same thing everyone else is looking at but sees it in a different way" as well as "Dare to be DIFFERENT!" Whether the work was gigantic compared to what other schools' students were producing (a habit my students were known for...once having had to strap an 8'X11' painting on TOP of the bus heading to a contest) or uniquely produced with media other American students weren't lucky enough to get to dabble in, my students sought to leave a mark on the viewers' eyes and hearts. God gave me, and my students, wonderful blessings during the career I began in August, 1981.

Over the years, there were a beaucoup of talented students who made a name for themselves.  That sprouted a self-perpetuating  legacy as the up-and-coming students wanted to follow in the footsteps of the older students' artistic ventures. My award-winning 'Studio' artists (taught to produce works at the college undergraduate level) sprouted 'apprentices' in the classroom simply by example. To try to name some of the greatest artists and photographers I had would be unfair to those who would be left off any such list. But, all my students have long been adults, now, and they probably would proudly hail the former students I'm about to give special plaudits.

Justin Boatsman was not only the most-talented student artist I had the pleasure of meeting, but the most-talented artist I've personally met in my life...PERIOD...and I've known many of those! I always quipped, "Justin has more art talent in the fingernails he cuts off than I have in my entire body." Justin needed no lessons in developing skills from me. All I had to do was introduce him to new media and unknown techniques. Time and time again, he--a true 'child prodigy'--produced work that was amazing. Justin also had a rare skill that I was fortunate enough to have in my youth but have lost since.  Justin was able to 'visualize items in his mind and simply be able to rotate them about, 'all while sitting in a silent gaze into space, until he put them on a surface with his hands. Justin was wired in a way that is oh-so-rare among artists. Just as Michelangelo could sculpt marble faster than multiple workers, Justin could whip out artwork in mere minutes that had no equal. I relished the wonderful artists I had, all of them, but Justin was the only one I felt I'd let down because he was in a league of his own. His only competition was himself. I wish all art and photography teachers would have at least one 'Justin' under their tutelage during a teaching career.  He was my 'Outstanding Artist of the 1990's' at Cache.  

The 'Outstanding Artist of the 1980's' at Cache was JoAnne Agers.  When one thinks of the word 'dedication,' one has to think of JoAnne's sacrifice.  When her family moved away, she stayed in Cache so she could continue and complete her art education studies.  JoAnne was always seeking to do something new--plaster casts from life, metal plate lithographs, airbrush painting, figure drawing studies--always with her mind on developing a strong portfolio for scholarship offers.  She had one of the most talked-about and publicized artworks with her 'Self-Portrait in a Nudist Colony.'  KSWO-TV out of Lawton showed up on campus, one day, following up on the story about that controversial work.  (Who contacted them?  It wasn't me!)


Roger Brown wasted no time in making sure I'd never forget him as the most avant-garde student I'd share classrooms over five, consecutive years together. As an eighth-grader, he came into class tardy that first day. I told him, "Take a seat anywhere," and continued my lecture. Roger promptly plopped down IN one of the three classroom sinks, and remained there for the entire class period. During the 'White Elephant Gift Exchange' of one of our heralded Cache Art Club Christmas Parties, Roger's gift to the unlucky recipient was a marvelously-crafted toilet stool made from cardboard and, beneath the lid, came complete with fabricated feces. (The recipient trashed the gift, which I promptly grabbed for myself. Roger's gift was a perfect example of how 'differently' Roger thought, as an artist and, later, a photographer, and was meant to underline that personality, not offend anyone.)  Roger's mind was ever-moving and he taught me several tricks (just like many of my other students over the years), including how to take a lightbulb apart to put things into it in a sculptural manner.  (That became the science fair project of my stepson y-e-a-r-s later, Roger...thanks!)  Even as an adult--accompanying us to Canada--Roger showed his unique personality. While the rest of us sat in the double-decker bus waiting for our trip, Roger--with a rubber mask over his face--smoked a cigarette on the sidewalk.  He had smoke billowing out of the mask as if he were a 'human incense burner.'  None of us could do anything but laugh until our ribs hurt...typical Roger moment.  (I have a video of that moment and occasionally pop it in just to get another laugh.)  I had to be really careful not to muse about a certain art technique or prospective work around Roger because he would be sure to try it. When his final period of high school class with me came to an end, he and his buddy (Randall Ferguson) reprised the scene from the movie Dead Poet's Society, standing on an art table and saying, "O Captain, My captain!" That was one of the top moments of my life, a touching tribute from two students who affectionately called me 'Doc' Schultz and who likened my teaching to be like that of Robin Williams' role in the film.


Amanda 'Mandy' Kramer was consistently the hardest-working and most-competitive I ever had under my guidance, tutelage which she strove not to be wasted. No student tried harder, year after year, to please her teacher than Mandy, and I'm talking about EVERY classroom she entered. Mandy won more 'Female Artist of the Year' titles than any other student and relished the competition, especially with classmate Soyla Santos, who became her closest friend. Mandy was one of several of my students who were participants in the prestigious Oklahoma Arts Institute program (held just outside of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the Quartz Mountains). I worked hard, and kept an incredibly-tough schedule (OFTEN working at two in the morning while students were still working on airbrush painting, for example). Mandy did her best to labor as hard as her teacher. I think she actually spent more time at school than at her home!  Mandy's work ethic, as my student, mirrored the exemplary type of prospective employee businesses wring their hands trying to find.

My students weren't the only ones who graced the Lone Wolf lodge for world-class studies.  I was fortunate enough to have attended a number of the 'Fall Institute of the Arts' programs at the Lone Wolf lodge myself.  I had the opportunity to work with world-renowned artists and photographers (Jeanette Pasin Sloan, Sally Mann, Martha Casanave, Jerry Uelsmann, Doug Kirkland, Jan Rosenberg, and more).  Arnold Newman and I were chatting over breakfast, one morning, and I got brave enough to show him a photograph taken by Greg Moore (one of my students) of his little sister.  All week, I saw fellow Arts' participants showing their works to Arnold.  Inevitably, he told them what would have made their photographs better, so I showed Greg's work with a lot of hesitancy.  Arnold held the work with both hands, slowly shook his head back and forth just a tad (as if saying, "No") and then stated, "I wish I could say I took that photograph."  He admired it for a few seconds more before I told him how old the photographer was that captured the image and made the print.  He handed me back the photo again nodding his head.  There were a ton of great photographs the students who spun through our revolving darkroom door printed over the years, but how could there ever be a more gracious compliment than the one Arnold gave that day?  To be the lucky teacher to hear other experts applaud the skills of the students I was blessed to have was a thrill beyond words.   

Soyla and Mandy are just two of the many students who became 'idols' to the younger students wanting to get into the Cache Art and Photography program and make their own mark.  Just a few names, off the top of my head (many of them 'Artist of the Year' winners) besides those two...Sheri Agresti, Chris Anderson, Heidi Barber, Jennifer Barker, Brent Beeson, Heather Bennett, Don Burk, Christian Boos, Becky Castlebury, Adam Cisarik, Melissa Conklin, Janie Dodd, Dale Domebo, Regina Dupler, DeAnne Felder, Randall Ferguson, Heloisa Fiasco, Jennifer Gannaway, Patty Gentry, Mary Givan, Glenn Hays, Mark Jackson, Yolanda Herrera, David Keller, Sherry Kendall, Darren Keyes, Chelsey King, Danielle Lawrence, Adrienne Lorentino, Ken Matthews, Greg Moore, Reana Myers, Cody Neugebauer, Gary Parsons, Chad Reeves, Crystal Robinson, Steve Seneca, Blake Smith, Shane Smith, Kendra Stewart, Rena Stewart, Dale Travis, John Watts, John Williams, Jose Wilson, Athena Yackeyonny, Stephanie Yeahquo,Mae Rey Yom, et al.   (Forgive me, former students, if I failed to list you above.  I survived a stroke but my brain doesn't work like it once did.  You may have thought that I gave you difficult assignments to reach your potential but, trust me, it's nothing compared to trying to recover from a stroke.  I spent five months spelling my name letter-by-letter, taking over a minute to write my own name!  So, please, allow this old man some latitude.)

Special kudos go to Becky Castlebury and DeAnne Felder who were not only superb artists, but who were so generous to buy their poor teacher his first pair of Nike tennis shoes!  I loved those so much that, when I wore a hole through the toe area, I took them to a cobbler to sew new leather on top of them.  Sure, I could have bought new shoes but these were from 'special ladies' at school!  I still have a number of prized possessions, in my home, courtesy of students (like the wooden palette from Roger and Randall that reads, "Dr. Darrell Schultz," then in an offshoot of Michelangelo's words at his death, "We regret we are to graduate as yet we have not learned the alphabet of our future."  I can't miss that's right in front of me.)  Even though I try to avoid shaving as much as possible, I still have the shaving cup and brush from former student Sherry Kendall.  Gary Parsons' oil painting still life of items from my own kitchen has received numerous 'awe' gasps when they came into my kitchen and saw it hanging there for their pleasure.  To you former students, those may have seemed like 'little gifts,' but they mean the world to me.

Though I could go on listing thousands of former students by name who are deserving of my praise, I have room for only three others to be mentioned. Amber Wardell is a student I had at Lake City Community College. Amber was blind and taking one of my 'Ceramics' offerings. Through sheer touch she was able to--like Justin Boatsman--manipulate the medium to look like it did only in her mind. Not only was it amazing to see her brighten the room, for all of us, knowing she was in 'a dark place with no escape,' but her work was impeccable. Even when I had my best sight and was at the top of my own artistic skill set, I couldn't have done better work than Amber.  Not even close, in fact.  After I moved from Lake City and continued to teach on-line courses for the college years after my departure, Amber was one of my on-line students!  Imagine going through an internet course--several hundred pages in length--using software to 'read' to you the contents of the page...yet never seeing any of the visual examples!  It didn't matter. Amber excelled in that domain, as well. Someone should make a movie about the life of this student because she was the epitome of the student who rises above a bad hand dealt in life...a true example of the 'disabled' being more able than others who have no such affliction.

Several of my students received college degrees in art or photography.  The last two I need to call out feel like daughters to me, in a way, they were so kind and helpful to a then-single dad with a little girl who just moved to an entirely foreign habitat.  Those two young ladies, who laughed with me and who basked in the challenges I gave them in my photo courses at Lake City Community College (now known as 'Florida Gateway College'), both became professional photographers.  Tonya Beaver (whose stunning work can be seen at and Mishelle Stafford (whose equally-wonderful portfolio can be seen at had those special visions behind the lens and simply absorbed everything I threw at them like sponges absorbing water.  God bless those two gals in their artistic endeavors.  They were even better human beings than photographers, and that's saying a lot.  I thank God that I had a number of students, both at the secondary and collegiate level, who taught me as much about life and compassion than ANYTHING I ever taught them standing in their classrooms.


When I told my high school teachers, back in the 1970's, that I felt ,"God is calling me to be an art teacher," every one of them tried to talk me out of taking my life down that career path. They unanimously felt that my own skills would not be fully utilized and my life's potential never reached. But, just the opposite happened. I went from being in love with producing art to being in love with changing the lives of students under my care through studies. I became known, to many of my students, as a 'life mentor,' not just 'teacher.' Now retired, I can look back on my career as a teacher and lift my grateful hands to God for His bountiful blessings to me. I can, and have, cried tears of joy, in front of students, just for having had the opportunity to be their teacher.

Darrell Schultz