When Wayne Conyers first got the letter, he had to read it twice.
“My first thought was, ‘I have to have read that wrong,’” Conyers said.
But he was right the first time: The Kansas Art Education Association has named him Outstanding Art Educator-Higher Education for 2016-2017.
“I was shocked because it was something I never saw coming,” said the professor of art at McPherson College. “It’s just me. I’m just this guy who makes paintings and enjoys turning others on to what turns me on. I’ve been one of those lucky people whose vocation and avocation are the same thing.”
Shawny Montgomery, an art educator and the president of the KAEA, nominated Conyers for the prestigious award.
“I have observed his unlimited commitment and dedication to students, his fellow faculty members, art educators and the art education profession,” Montgomery said.
Dr. Bruce Clary, vice president for academic affairs, started at McPherson College in 1983 at the same time as Conyers. Because of this, Dr. Clary said he has had a great perspective on what has made Conyers successful.
“Wayne has a contagious passion and joy for making art, and he has passed that on to hundreds – maybe thousands – of students over his decades-long career,” Dr. Clary said. “He inspires them to trust their own imaginations.”
Conyers received a Master of Fine Arts in Painting at Fort Hays State University and started his career teaching high school art for 10 years. After Baldwin, he came to McPherson College and is now in his 33rd year of being an “artist who has chosen to teach” at MC, with 19 of those as department chair. His instruction has been primarily focused on ceramics and painting.
At the same time, he’s been a significant contributor to professional and community art organizations. These include serving as a board member for Watercolor USA and Kansas Watercolor Society; member of Phi Kappa Phi, National Art Education Association, Kansas Art Education Association, and Visual Arts Alliance of McPherson. He also has served the community with leading watercolor workshops, serving as juror to high school exhibitions, and hosting and organizing the annual Central Kansas Art Educators Exhibition and the Central Kansas League Art Festival on the campus of McPherson College.
Professionally, his works have won awards and been invited to well over 125 exhibitions at all levels – local, national and international – and has earned dozens of prominent awards for his work. He’s probably best known for his watercolor paintings, which are included within a variety of private, corporate and museum collections.
He has drawn from his life experience as inspiration for much of his work, but recently he’s been getting ideas from studying theoretical physics – dark matter, the multiverse, string theory, and the like. In his technique, Conyers tends to blend surreal images with colorful geometric patterns – often infused with his quirky sense of humor.
Conyers said he never expected to receive the Outstanding Art Educator award for his lifetime of work, but he could not be happier.
“This is the icing on the cake of my career,” Conyers said. “How could anyone ask for more as an art educator?”