Memorial remembers Sac State professor for teaching

Brett Johnson

Friends, family and students shared memories and applauded the work and teachings of the late Kurt von Meier, professor emeritus of art history at Sacramento State this weekend.

The memorial was held Saturday afternoon inside of the classroom Meier taught in, Kadema Hall Room 145. It was followed with a student art show in the Else Gallery – a similar exhibit to those Meier organized during his time at Sac State.

Meier died suddenly on Oct. 15 at the age of 77. During his time at Sac State, he headed many student projects and produced two e-books; “A Ball of Twine with Hidden Noise” and “Laws of Form.”

“He was a very pro-student professor,” said Lori Lockamy, alumna of Sac State’s art program. “He always wanted to have student shows on Second Saturdays before the art walk so people could come to the campus and see what art students were doing at the university.”

Lockamy created a displaycase memorializing Meier’s professional career on a wall in Kadema Hall.

The case contains a short autobiography, pictures, art and illustrations of his esoteric teaching methods. The case displays an example of a standard assignment in Meier’s Primitive Art and Mythology class – a walk around the perimeter of Sac State with a logbook to keep track of time, places and circumstances.

“He was such a cool guy … he once had Andy Warhol visit his class and brought in The Velvet Underground to play in his classroom,” Lockamy said. “He was just all about art. I mean, he was a genius.”

Larry Barnett, long-time friend of Meier and former mayor of Sonoma, first met Meier in San Francisco – the town Meier was born and raised. He spoke at the memorial and shared a story of his experience with Meier at a fine dining restaurant.

“I called to asked if it was formal wear only, and Kurt told me to ask about ‘holy men in native garb,’ which the man said was acceptable after some hesitation,” he said. “We threw on the most insane collection of beads and cloth. When we got there, I half expected them to throw us out. Instead, they recognized us as the ‘holy men in native garb,’ and showed us to our table.”

The memorial brought alumni such as Rachel Stonecipher, who took art history with Meier 30 years ago.

“He just had a way of stimulating the imagination,” Stonecipher said. “He was so observant – nothing really got past him.”

Patti Phare-Camp majored in fine arts at Sac State in 2004. Her experience with Meier as a teacher left a similar impression.

“Seeing him lecture for the first time just made me want to know more about him,” Phare-Camp said. “As it turns out, Kurt was a rockstar in the art world who influenced a great many people.”

In 2004, Meier’s last year at the university, a gallery of his personal art collection was shown at the Else and Witt galleries. The show, entitled “Mandala: Mirror: Reflection,” ranged from authentic Andy Warhol art to collections from renown spiritual leaders to Sac State students’ work.

At the memorial, photographs of the exhibit were shown alongside narration from Meier. The audio gave attendees a chance to relive Meier’s teaching as he explained the significance of each gallery piece.

“He was a very special teacher with idiosyncratic methods,” Barnett said. “He really did teach to the end.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]