By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
In 1948, Russell Day came to Everett Junior College and created an art program where there had been none.
With his own artwork, jewelry and works in glass, he expressed his boldness with light, color and design.
He retired in 1974, leaving Everett Community College with a vibrant arts curriculum. Now 95, Day was recently back on campus, where he encountered his most enduring legacy. It’s not a program or piece of art, but the artists who were lucky enough to be in his classes.
“Many schools look at their famous alumni. They don’t look at the people who got them there — the faculty,” said Sandra Lepper, an Everett Community College art instructor and director of the campus art gallery.
Until last week, the display space in EvCC’s Parks Student Union building was called the Northlight Gallery. It was renamed the Russell Day Gallery at a reception Feb. 8. Former students came to honor Day, who now lives with his wife, Marjorie, at the Panorama retirement community in Lacey. Marjorie Day taught literature at the college.
Chuck Close, Day’s most renowned former pupil, couldn’t attend the reception, but a piece by the New York artist, an iconic self-portrait on a massive tapestry, dominates one wall of the gallery’s current exhibit, “Russell Day: Catalyst.” The show of works by Day and 20 of his former students is on view at the gallery through March 21.
“He’s a world figure,” Day said of Close, the artist schooled at Everett High School and Everett Junior College who went on to achieve fame for his photorealist style and his images created on grids.
In a statement published in the “Russell Day: Catalyst” exhibit catalogue, Close credits his former teacher with all that he became. “In the 1950s, I attended Everett’s South Junior High School and Everett High School, where I struggled with severe learning disabilities. I was advised that I would never be able to succeed in college,” wrote Close, adding that he met Marjorie Day at church and told her of his interest in art. “I owe everything I have accomplished and who I have become to that encounter with Rus and Marjorie Day,” Close said.
Close not only graduated from the University of Washington and Yale University, his work was exhibited by the New York Museum of Modern Art and ARTNews magazine named him one of the 50 most influential people in the art world.
Other artists represented in the EvCC exhibit include Joe Aiken, Ruth Allen, Dona Anderson, Beau Bossarte, Max Benjamin, Dale Carlson, Joan Cates, Chuck Causey, Virginia Causey, Timothy Ely, R. Allen Jensen, Kent Larsen, Dean Merriman, Mike Monahan, Philip Moore, Doris Protzman, Larry Stair, Chuck Stavig, Donald Tompkins, Donn Tretheway and Nanna Skalley.
Before Day came to Everett Junior College, he taught art at Snohomish High School, where Tompkins had been his student. Tompkins and painter Larry Bakke later came to the college to join Day as art faculty members. The current exhibit was spearheaded by Lloyd Weller, an EvCC photography instructor hired by Day.
Dona Anderson, a mixed-media artist and the 2003 Snohomish County Artist of the Year, was in her 30s when she took Day’s night class in basic design.
“He’d give us assignments that were so hard, even he said he was hard,” said Anderson, whose husband, Bob Anderson, was once Everett mayor. “He did everything with such flair, even the way he dressed,” she said.
Day’s former home in the View Ridge area of Everett was a work of art itself, incorporating modern design and his glass pieces. Day’s glass work can also be seen in windows of Everett’s First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Lepper said Day was old-school, stressing fundamental skills. “He taught color adjacencies, the relationship of form and content, technical things that almost no one teaches anymore,” she said. “The way he dressed, his house, with everything about him, he paid attention to form.”
If Day’s life is art, then his masterpiece is passing it along.
Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or email@example.com.
Exhibit honors EvCC instructor
“Russell Day: Catalyst,” an exhibit of art and design by Day and 20 of his former students, is on view through March 21 at the Russell Day Gallery in the Parks Student Union building at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St., Everett. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. For this show only, the gallery is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The exhibit is free. Information: www.everettcc.edu/northlight/russellday.