Arkansas’ First Artist Laureate
When Evan Lindquist first arrived in Arkansas, people would ask where he was from; people didn’t understand his Midwestern accent. He said communication was sometimes difficult, until he learned the local dialect.
Some 50 years later, there’s no mistaking Arkansas’ first artist laureate. His artwork speaks to audiences locally and around the world.
Lindquist is Arkansas State University’s emeritus professor of art and founder of the Delta National Small Prints Exhibition, now in its 19th year. He is known worldwide for his burin copperplate engravings, a process that was also used by Rembrandt, for intaglio prints.
His work is exhibited in the permanent collection of galleries across the globe; the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, the Galleria degli Uffizi, Gabinetto di disegno in Florence, Italy, the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas City, the New Orleans Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City all feature collections of Lindquist’s work.
He is a recipient of the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Arts Council and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of American Graphic Artists; he is also a distinguished alumnus of Emporia State University.
It was in Emporia, Kan., where Lindquist’s love of art became linked with education. He said he and his family moved there following World War II; he lived only four blocks from the campus of what was then known as Kansas State Teachers College.
“My neighbors were college professors,” he said. “I was enrolled in the ‘Laboratory Training School,’ where practice teachers learned to teach. Since 1945, I’ve always lived or worked on college campuses, and education always has been near the center of my life.”
“Art was always a priority in my education,” he noted. “My wife and I had very devoted professional artists as teachers, and we often recall things we learned from them.”
After finishing his formal education, which included a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in fine arts, he served as staff artist at Emporia State. In June 1963, he and his wife Sharon came to Jonesboro and Arkansas State College, where he taught art classes in what he described as, “a dilapidated old dairy barn that was infested with pigeons.”
“Occasionally someone would come around with a shotgun and shoot at the birds roosting above my office window. Once I had to duck and run from shattering glass. I have to mention the shock of being at the mercy of the mosquitoes; the mosquitoes were everywhere!”
Despite birds and bugs most foul (or fowl), Lindquist built a 40-year teaching career and an international reputation for his artwork.
Dr. Tim Hudson, Arkansas State University chancellor, in nominating Lindquist for the artist laureate post, noted, “Lindquist selflessly shares his ‘recipe’ for ink production online, making that information available to millions. Charitable gifts of his artwork have been realized by Arkansas State University, a sitting United States president and countless others.”
Hudson said one of Lindquist’s most outstanding contributions to the state is the number of students he taught and mentored, who themselves have gone on to receive critical recognition for their own artwork and teaching.
“I’ve learned from every one of my students,” Lindquist said. “I sought meaningful ways to introduce and explain the principles and ideas of what I was teaching. Motivation is the most important concept, and I tried to understand what would motivate each student. Each student became a new partner on a new adventure, sometimes climbing to new heights, sometimes traveling through difficult terrain.”
Although retired from teaching, he remains a full-time artist.
“Every day, I have an artistic project going in my studio, and it occupies my mind completely,” he said. “Whenever I leave the studio, a current project is still in my mind, begging me to work out its next incarnation. I’m never free from thinking, planning or visualizing ‘The Project.’ This feeling has sometimes been described by other artists as a ‘white heat’ that burns in the mind until the work is finished.”
“Completing ‘The Project,’ and the ‘white heat’ is a most exhilarating feeling. As a tactical force, completion is the most meaningful accomplishment, but within hours, a new question arises in my mind; a new ‘white heat’ begins to build. It will be with me 24 hours a day until it is completed.”
The bill establishing the artist laureate, passed during Arkansas’ 89th General Assembly, and signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe, recognizes “outstanding accomplishments and contributions in art.”
“Evan Lindquist,” Hudson said, “emulates those qualities in which the State of Arkansas will be quite proud.”
“I’m gratified to know that someone else ‘gets it’ when viewing some of my engravings,” Lindquist said. “Each of my awards tells me that a wonderful group of people experienced something they valued from my work.”