Jim Estes, professor of Art at Western, retired last year. Estes received his B.S. in Art in 1969, his M.A. in 1971 and his M.F.A. in 1978. Since 1972, he has contributed to Western through teaching as well as donations. By unanimous decision of the Art board this past fall, he will receive the honorary title of Professor Emeritus.
Estes is a prominent sculptor and ceramicist, working primarily with clay and wood. Native to the American Midwest, most of his pieces reflect the irregular and beautiful landscape of Missouri and its neighbors. They even feature roads and trails, as if you are looking down upon a map of the land. His newer works can be seen across Western’s campus in the form of large metal sculptures, most recognizably ‘Passages’ – the red, yellow, and blue sculpture in front of Potter Hall.
Estes was honored to receive the title, but said that he did not set out seeking the distinction.
“My father groomed me to be an attorney,” Estes said, “But I said ‘I think I might try art out.’ I didn’t care how much money I made, I’d rather do something I wanted to do.”
Estes first got started in the field in high school, and was inspired by instructor Joe Neff.
“He was enthusiastic,” Estes said. “He showed me a side of art I hadn’t seen before. I fell in love with the act of making something. And that is the first thing all artists must do.”
Assistant Professor of Art, Geo Sipp worked closely with Estes and even participated in an art exhibition with him. Sipp described the time he spent working with Estes since 2001 as an invaluable experience.
“He was, and still is, a real worker, and generous to a fault,” said Sipp. “Students knew he wasn’t just a teacher. He had their respect and admiration, as well as that of his peers.”
Besides teaching at Western and providing the sculptures that decorate the campus grounds, Estes was also responsible for starting the ceramics program in his early years of teaching. Sipp said it began as a project in a small building on the east side of campus, and, because of Estes, it is still active today.
Dr. Allison Sauls, chair of the art department, said Estes was fabulous to work with.
“He’s sensible, he’s practical, and he gets things done,” said Sauls. “I was sad when he retired, and I miss him very much.”
Sauls said Estes will be leaving behind a legacy in the form of his students who are now working in the field of art, and in the aesthetic improvement of campus provided by his sculptures.
“Just look at the campus. It’s gorgeous,” said Sauls, “It makes a statement. It’s absolutely wonderful to see.”
Estes’ art has also been featured in magazines and in more than 140 exhibits across America. Estes said he does not work for a cause; he creates for himself as much as for his audience, and he wishes to see more of that in art today.
He is leaving Western after 38 years of education and service. His colleagues in the Art Department agree that he will be missed, and that he is indeed more than deserving of this great honor.