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Dr. George Szekely is a prolific painter, an author, and a pioneer in developing creative changes and methodologies for art teaching. George was at the forefront of the first art educators to emphasize the importance of children’s play and home art in artistic development and as the foundation for school art practice.

To name a few of his achievements, Dr. Szekely has been elected a Distinguished Fellow of the National Art Education Association, an Emanual Barkan Prize-winning author, a Victor Lowenfeld Award recipient for his lifetime achievement in art education and was named A National Treasure by student chapters of the NAEA.

Since 1978, he has been Area Head and Senior Professor of Art Education at the University of Kentucky.

Here are the highlights of my funky conversation with George:

  • 03:54 – A glimpse of his childhood and how the Hungarian revolution led him to meet an art teacher who shared his love for Pez and whose footsteps he followed.
  • 07:11 – The long journey from Hungary to Vienna to the classrooms of New York, how his teacher, Mr. Williams, had changed his life completely through his great faith and confidence with George and encouraged him to go on the to the high school of Music and Arts where he was classmates with Peter, Paul and Mary.
  • 09:24 – His life in the village in the early 60s including bumping into Claes Oldenburg’s first store, getting to Columbia and being one of the pioneers in building Soho and how it all ended during the Lindsay administration which brought him to Kentucky.
  • 13:46 – How he got back on his feet starting with small spaces in grocery stores and waking up in the wee hours to work on his writing.
  • 17:07 – How he became an unintentional teacher in New York and how he came to love it after his experiences.
  • 25:14 – How he prepared for teaching, incorporating play in classes, celebrating children’s art and what kept him in this profession for years.
  • 41:24 – The non-traditional techniques and tools George uses in his artworks.

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Creative Influences

One hour to create something, with anyone…

  • “I would create works that would cover large pieces of land so I would work with environmental artists.”

To defeat Godzilla with his talents…

  • “Godzilla almost defeated me recently because I was not able to put up this 7-foot inflatable because the machine stopped dead in its tracks. I had to use a bicycle pump that I borrowed from the hotel and though he didn’t look quite right, I pulled it off.”

Advice…

  • Don’t place too much emphasis in school. It’s a sport wherein you have to pursue relentlessly yourself so set your own goals and schedules. Be tough because there will be lots of difficulties along the way. There will be people who will tell you that this is not what the public wants so you have to develop a sense of independence. Set up a place to work, make plans and stick to them, and stick to what’s important to you and not what the art world or the teachers say.

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