One of KU’s most beloved artists is partnering with the University again.
Mike Savage’s latest work is historic Watson Library, which alumni can buy a print or ornaments of as a fundraiser for KU Libraries. The art is available for purchase through Savage’s website and is available through April 20.
Savage, f’80, is a longtime supporter of all things KU, often donating paintings for auction at the Alumni Association’s Rock Chalk Ball.
For more on Mike Savage, read a profile by Chris Lazzarino from Issue 3, 2012, of Kansas Alumni.
Savage colors his world with flair and passion
Now long established as one of Kansas City’s iconic painters, Mike Savage says it was a KU photography class that provided his pivotal insight. As Professor Pok-Chi Lau examined a selection of Savage’s images, he first praised—“I really like what you’re doing”—then added the comment that has since made all the difference: “But get rid of your ego.”
“That was a turning point in my life,” Savage says in his airy, book-lined studio above the garage behind his Westwood home. “He thought I wasn’t delving in far enough. I was trying to make it look good instead of doing what was coming out of me. You’re good at what you do; believe in that. Go find out. Make mistakes.”
Savage, f ’80, has been ridding himself of artistic ego ever since. He describes himself as a contemporary Impressionist, but that’s as far as he’ll go in attaching himself to the slightest scent of a high-minded, difficult artist. (“ARTSY-FARTSY” is a 20-point word in the novelty Scrabble blocks arranged near his desk.)
Savage’s work is accessible both literally and figuratively. His colorful acrylic-on-canvas paintings are prized by collectors and displayed across Kansas City, including his own gallery, Sav-Art, and yet he donates original works for numerous causes (his KU images have become a Rock Chalk Ball tradition) and he accepts commission work, even if the commission ends up being zero and the subjects are beloved pets or the four children of a woman whom a buddy hoped to marry.
“I’m a happy-go-lucky guy about the art,” he says. “I don’t have any angst about it. I like the beauty of painting.”
Savage embraces technology—he has 58,000 songs in iTunes and music is his constant companion while working—and, after photographing his paintings, he generates prints from a high-end digital printer; when galleries call in their orders, he not only makes the prints, but he’ll often deliver them, too.
“It’s kind of magic stuff,” Dave Seal, owner of Framewoods Gallery in downtown Lawrence, says of Savage’s KU prints, “and it’s affordable. Yes, he’s contemporary and Impressionistic, but he makes it a little more modern, and local.”
Spencer Museum of Art’s featured spring exhibition, which runs through June 30, radiates throughout the sparkling central court and first-floor galleries, offering visitors an eclectic array of styles, techniques and ideas, all exploring the topic of place.
As is to be expected with the Spencer’s original exhibitions, “The Power of Place” is both challenging and rewarding, yet also offers plenty of opportunity to pause and ponder the people and places that shape us as Jayhawks and Kansans.
“Access to health care is critical for us all, no matter where we live,” said Chancellor Doug Girod. “This will become even more important as our state’s population continues to age in the coming years, further increasing demand. With many of the counties in our state remaining medically underserved, KU has a distinctive responsibility to help fill that need.”
Watch the video below to see how faculty and staff at the Salina Health Education Center are educating the next generation of physicians and nurses. Read additional coverage in issue No. 1, 2019, ofKansas Alumni magazine.
In 40 years of chasing birds worldwide, Robbins has amassed more than 11,000 field recordings of avian vocalizations—birdsongs—every one now in the Macaulay, where they make up 3 percent of the Cornell University library’s recordings.
Researchers use the sounds to study many scientific topics, including how climate change is affecting bird ranges. That’s the subject of recent investigations that tapped some of Robbins’ first recordings, of chickadees, made in 1978.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction that you’re adding to the science,” says Robbins, who has discovered six new species and had one—the Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Scytalopus robbinsi)—named for him.
But there are personal rewards, too.
“I got into this as a kid, long before I appreciated the science,” says the longtime bird lover. “Migration still brings me to my knees: That on a spring day in May you get a south wind and overnight all these birds who’ve been migrating for two months from the Amazon basin show up in your backyard—I love that. It gives you a whole different perspective on the life of the planet.”
Indeed, it’s good to know there are still some tweets that can set the heart aflutter.
Listen to the bird calls below:
A popular bird with birdwatchers and sportsmen, “gentleman Bob” as he’s known in some parts, is easily identified by his distinctive two-noted whistle. An inhabitant of field and wood edge, the ground-dwelling quail has suffered major population declines in recent decades. The lovely song heard in the background of this recording is the Field Sparrow.
Despite its state-specific name, Kentucky Warblers are found as a breeder across the eastern United States and as far west as eastern Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. This one was recorded at the Fitch Natural History Reservation on the KU Field Station, the University’s biological field station north of Lawrence.
Black-billed Mountain Toucan
A denizen of the montane cloud forests in the Andes of South America from Venezuela south to Peru, Black-billed Mountain Toucans are known to range over long distances when foraging.
The KU Alumni Association receives hundreds of letters from Jayhawks across the globe, but it was an ominous note from Brooke Collison, a Corvallis, Oregon, alumnus, titled “Insidious KSU Plot” that recently caught the attention of several staffers. Curious what Collison had uncovered about our pesky neighbors to the west, we read on.
Dear KU Alums,
I am an Oregon resident where automobile license plates have three numbers, a space and three big letters. I purchased a new car last month and my new license plates have arrived. Much to my chagrin, the three letters are “KSU.” I am aghast! How can I possible drive my car with those letters emblazoned on both the front and back of my ride?
I seriously suspect there may be an alum of that other Kansas university working in the Oregon license bureau who has a warped sense of humor and has decided to play a cruel joke on me. Imagine the agony I will go through when asked for auto identification on all kinds of forms—even when checking in to an [un-named] cheap motel! And what will I do when a driver passes me and waves with enthusiasm?
Please, does the Alumni Association have a department to help victims such as myself?
Sincerely, Brooke Collison
Though the Alumni Association doesn’t have a department dedicated to helping wrongfully persecuted Jayhawks such as Collison, we certainly couldn’t sit by and watch a fellow alumnus suffer. Tegan Thornberry, d’05, g’09, the Association’s director of marketing, membership and business development, rushed a KU license plate frame to Collison, hoping to dispel any confusion about his loyalty to KU and ease the pain of the tragic tag.
“It was nice to receive the KU Alumni Association license plate frame so that I’d have something to partially cover or correct my embarrassment of having that huge ‘KSU’ stuck on the back of my car,” says Collison, d’56, g’62, a retired professor at Oregon State University. “I figured it was the best I could do because I knew the local law enforcement folk would frown on my putting masking tape over some of the letters.”
If you’re a Jayhawk in Kansas, Texas, or Maryland, you can show your KU pride with a distinctive license plate on your vehicle. You do not have to be a member of the KU Alumni Association or a graduate of KU to have a Jayhawk license plate. Visit www.kualumni.org/license to learn more!
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that ended World War I, we are proud to publish a history of the war at KU that has special significance for Kansas Alumni: Evie Masterson Rapport, d’70, g’78, based her 1978 journalism master’s thesis on the war coverage she found in our predecessor publication, The Graduate Magazine. Rapport, a journalism and communications veteran in Kansas City and at KU, next spring will again present an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course about the University’s vigorous response to the U.S. government’s dire need to prepare an army for battle.
Watch the video below to see how the students and faculty of KU went into action during World War I with a series of photos from the Spencer Research Library. Read additional coverage in issue No. 6, 2018, ofKansas Alumni magazine.
During his deployment to Africa in 2011, Maj. Michael Hayes was tasked with distributing care packages from the National Guard’s family program director to his fellow soldiers. He was surprised, after about seven months, to receive a gift of his own: a grim-faced ceramic Jayhawk, which resembled the KU mascot introduced in 1941.
“I didn’t want to just set it on my desk,” recalls Hayes, c’08, an ROTC instructor and assistant professor of military science at KU. “I wanted to take pictures and send them back to her to say, ‘Look! I got it. Thank you!’ That’s how the pictures started.”
Inspired by Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Hayes took Jay on all of his deployments and work-related travel, capturing his crimson and blue companion riding in Chinooks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and overseeing troops at bases throughout the country and overseas.
As his collection of photos grew, Hayes started a Facebook page, “The Story of the Jayhawk,” to document their experiences.
Although the small figurine has been broken and repaired twice and now travels in the safety of a Styrofoam cooler, Jay shows no signs of retiring to a space on a shelf. Hayes even sends the mini mascot on journeys with other Army cadets and friends.
“Jay’s traveled more than I have,” Hayes says, “and I’ve jumped all over the place.”
Sarah Smarsh is out to demolish your stereotypes and assumptions. About Kansas. About the white working class. About so-called red state politics in general and the Trump Train in particular. About life in the vast American middle that she believes is too readily derided as flyover country.
In searing personal essays, pointed newspaper reportage and her first book, published Sept. 18, Smarsh challenges the flawed idea at the heart of our national identity: that America is a classless society, a meritocracy where anyone who works hard will be rewarded with a giant leap on the socio-economic ladder. By drawing on her own life growing up “below the poverty line” in southeastern Kansas, surrounded by family and friends who worked their bodies from first light to late night and still struggled to pay the bills, she has established herself as a champion of those on the losing side of the cultural divide that is economic inequality. Sarah Smarsh is, to put it plainly, calling bullshit on the American Dream.
Cue Wright hopes to one day retire from a successful music career and return to KU as a hip-hop professor. “Helping people,” she says, “is what I really like to do.” The following profile originally appeared in issue No. 3, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
On Feb. 4, 2017, a new Cue Wright was born. Already having earned two KU degrees and in the early days of a promising career in higher education, Wright shed her naturally shy self and stepped onto the outdoor stage at Mass Street’s Replay Lounge as the hip-hop artist Cuee.
“I knew I could write raps,” says Wright, j’15, g’17, “but I didn’t know I could perform as well as I did.”
A Chicago native, Wright was coaxed into a campus visit by her mother’s longtime employer, “Uncle” Gale Sayers, d’75, g’77. Front-row seats to a basketball game didn’t hurt, but it was Mount Oread that stole Wright’s heart.
Memories of that day are valuable tools in her current part-time job as senior coordinator of student ambassadors. When she meets with prospective students, Wright uses her story to help others write their own.
“I always channel that with my out-of-state students,” she says. “They’re thinking, ‘Why am I at Kansas?’ Well, go out on this campus and let it fill you.”
Finding her way
Wright arrived as a civil engineering major, but felt lost. Her mother asked what she was doing outside of class, to which Wright responded, “Nothin’.”
Wright switched her major to journalism, found her way to KJHK and eventually became director of hip-hop programming. Shortly before winter break of her senior year, her J-School adviser noted her “people-person” personality and suggested she consider a student affairs role in higher education. That required a master’s degree, yet another unknown for Wright, but she dove in. Soon her advanced studies were wearing her thin.
“I need an outlet. I need an other. I need something else. And so I started writing rap. Everything I’m doing is self-taught, but luckily I love to learn.”
Encouraged by family and friends, Wright in 2017 released “Master’s Cap,” in which six songs each explore a year of her college experience.
“My thing is,” she says, “school is cool. I love school. I’m a nerd.”
Wright’s current mixtape, “Shameless,” which she’s dropping online throughout 2018, displays her growth as an artist, both in writing skills (My life is a tornado/The haters all around me, everything will be OK, though) and emotional maturity that “lets the world know who I am.” Her success led to a busy summer schedule in Lawrence and Kansas City, including a prominent gig at the Middle of the Map Fest at Crown Center.
“Pursuing hip-hop in Lawrence has been different. They put me on a lot of alternative shows, and the audience sees this hip-hop opener and it’s totally different than what they’ve signed up for. The rewarding part is when they say, ‘Now I’m a hip-hop fan.’
“I take the blank stares as a challenge, and I love challenges.”