Gary Frields

NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - For more than 26 years, former Professor of Art Gary Frields inspired and guided his art students at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Known among his peers as a great advocate for SFA's art students, Frields taught courses in design, drawing and sculpture and served as graduate program coordinator for the School of Art. He was a recipient of the SFA Fine Arts Teaching Excellence Award and was appointed to the board of directors for the Texas Association of Schools of Art. Frields' involvement in national juried exhibitions helped in establishing the SFA Texas National, originating the concept, name and designing the logo. The event brings in some of the most celebrated contemporary artists as jurors. He originated the Art Prom and is a founding member of The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House, creating the logo and contributing to concept planning.

These are just a few of the reasons why the SFA Friends of the Visual Arts board has established a scholarship in his honor. The Gary Q. Frields Art Scholarship will be awarded annually to a student who is a current SFA student in degree or diploma courses within the School of Art or a graduate student in those areas.

The recipient of the first Frields Art Scholarship is Katherine Holmes, Fort Worth senior art major who is working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a primary concentration in painting and a secondary concentration in photography. Holmes is also the 2013 recipient of the Ed and Gwen Cole Dean's Award in Art. Following graduation, she plans to attend graduate school and return to college as a professor or continue as an independent studio artist.

The idea of having a scholarship with his name attached to it gave Frields, now retired, a recent opportunity to reflect on his life of art and his love of his former colleagues and students.

"I am filled with gratitude to have my name linked in perpetuity to SFA and art study," Frields wrote in an email interview. "I cherish this tribute especially because it is given by people in our arts community that I hold in the highest regard by virtue of their tireless and selfless efforts on behalf of the School of Art and students. The enterprise of the Friends of the Visual Arts has been crucial to the attainment of an art center and continuous financial support of art students. Many of the members of this organization, past and present, are worthy of coequal commendation."

Frields describes his life in what he calls "Shangri-La Doches" as "charmed" and "truly golden."

"Since 1974, SFA has been an important part of who I am," Frields said. "I am grateful for the contentment of knowing, as a graduate student in the 70's and as a professor in the School of Art since 1986, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and doing precisely what I was meant to do. I am thankful to have had the pleasure of working daily with many talented, intelligent and dedicated students, colleagues and friends in the arts community. Working with such fine people has added much to my life. I will forever be beholden to SFA for having hired me and giving me the opportunity to be a part of a special work place, enjoying many significant accomplishments and special memories over the years."

After being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2010, Frields said he was compelled to retire from teaching in 2012, having developed severe neuropathy from chemotherapy that gradually destroyed his sensitivity of touch and studio hand skills. Retirement came with "a deep lament and a sense of loss," he said.

"To have this Friends of the Visual Arts scholarship presented in recognition of my service is both fulfilling and humbling," Frields said.

While a scholarship can be defined as a form of grant or payment awarded to support a student's education on the basis of academic or other achievement, Frields sees a scholarship as having deeper meaning for those who take its reward to heart.

"Scholarships advance a student's self-belief and cognizance that their rigorous effort to acquire knowledge and skill is rewarding and respected," he said. "Through careful selection of scholarship recipients, an area of study may in turn foster the values it deems important and help teachers establish quality standards for that discipline.

"With the criteria instated for this scholarship, I hope the School of Art is seeded with young artists of exemplary work ethic, innovators who use diverse materials and working methods to explore and inform their creative originality," he continued. "I hope the recipients' artistic traits promote the historical concept, within the SFA School of Art, which acknowledges that some artistic temperaments (e.g. Da Vinci, Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith) may not be bound by artificial labeling via media, stylistic conventions or over specialization."

Frields went on to comment that he hopes the scholarship enables future recipients to meet a mentor like he had in John Daniel who will "help them discover an artistic vision unique to their persona/soul."

"I hope this scholarship allows someone to follow their passion and live their dream as I have been so fortunate to have done," he said. "I would hope during their time of art study and studio inquiry at SFA they establish friendship bonds, experience rapport with many assorted genre of artists and maybe even meet an uncommon friend for life; someone like I met in my wife Tamara, who is thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent and a dazzling beauty who is a powerful ally in facing a menacing life challenge."

Frields said he hopes future recipients "develop a sense of altruism" through working with the Friends of the Visual Arts in their fundraising efforts on behalf of the SFA College of Fine Arts and School of Art.

"In the end, I hope this scholarship allows students not to just become more informed, but transformed into authentically original, creative, open- minded, charitable individuals that will give back to the community and inspire others in our field of study."