Remembering Jack Cowin

Posted: October 6, 2014 1:15 p.m.

Jack Cowin in Yellowstone National Park.
Jack Cowin in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy Gord Prokopetz

Faculty, staff and students, near and far, continue to pay tribute to Jack Cowin, who taught at the University of Regina for 36 years, and passed away last month. Cowin was 67 years old, and is survived by his wife, Mary, two sons and their families.

Cowin was known for his etching and printmaking. He came to the University of Regina from Indiana in the early 1970s to teach printmaking, and he retired in 2007.

People are remembering Cowin for the effect he had on their lives.

Marsha Kennedy, a faculty member in Visual Arts first met him when she was a student in the early 1970s.  

“He went way out of his way to get me on my pathway as a professional artist. He was really supportive and encouraging. Jack saw in me, and my work, what the other professors didn't see. His work ethic and his perfectionism became my own. Jack was a 'bigger than life person'. So many people loved him.”

Rae Staseson, Dean of Fine Arts, met Jack in 1984 when she started the in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program.

“I became a printmaking major because of Jack Cowin,” said Staseson. “I studied with him for several classes and worked as the studio assistant in printmaking. He taught me a great deal and was incredibly supportive as a teacher and mentor. I went on to graduate school in the USA because he urged me to embark upon that experience. He was right about it, because it was an invaluable experience and it provided the foundation for what I do now in my new role as Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Regina.”

Staseson says “There was a very lively and talented group of art students that he worked with and we all gravitated to printmaking, and he had everything to do with that, and it was such a communal and collegial atmosphere to work in. Many from this group went on to become successful artists, curators, architects, professors, designers, and animators.”   

“He was a very funny person, good humoured and a quick wit. Jack’s humour had an impact on me. He demonstrated that you did not need to be always full of angst and pain as an artist. Jack had a very tender heart and was a generous person.”

Gail Chin, who is also in the Visual Arts Department, met Jack when she arrived on campus in 1998. He showed her how artists could also be commercially successful.

“In my office is the cookbook created by Jack and his students to raise money for the natal care ward at the General Hospital. He was an artist who was also a great commercial success and through that fund raising effort, he taught all of us how to go about fund raising. He showed me that pragmatism and artistic creativity are not paradoxical. He told me that by helping our students we helped ourselves as teachers and artists/scholars.”

Erik Norbraten, Associate Creative Director with Arcas Advertising in Regina, was a student of Jack’s in the mid-1980s.

“I remember his classes being filled with laughter as he was very funny. He was very laid back, approachable and unpretentious. He was an accomplished printmaker who showed and sold his work as well as being a professor. So, he often was working on his prints side-by-side with his students. They definitely saw a successful artist in action, so he was a great role model for what it took to make it.”

Tracy Templeton says “I am a printmaker because of Jack. I am now the Head of Printmaking at his undergraduate university, Indiana University in Bloomington, in no small part because of his teaching.”

Tracy remembers the first time she was sitting in Jack’s printmaking class at the University of Regina in 1993.

“He used to lightly tug my ponytail when he wanted my attention. He said if I made it through printmaking a month with my manicured nails he'd buy the class doughnuts. Well, he had to buy us doughnuts a month later! He fostered a generation of printmakers and artists that are dedicated to a lifetime of creativity. He treated it as lifestyle. He will be missed dearly and remembered always.”

Jack’s influence reaches around the world.

Brad Kullman, and Assistant Professor at the Foreign Language Institute of Yeungnam University in Gyeongsan, South Korea, says “I went from being a firefighter for the City of Regina to being an expatriate working around the world to a large extent because of Jack Cowin. I took a printmaking class which ended up being a series of printmaking classes and a whirl at paper making which ultimately contributed to a complete reinvention of myself.”  

“Jack always made me feel like a colleague rather than a student. Jack seemed to be always on campus and there exclusively to be available for students. You were never interrupting Jack. His knowledge of his craft was astonishing. He could explain the most obscure technical process in great detail regardless of how many centuries had passed since it was in vogue. In fact, there was very little about art that Jack Cowin did not know. His generosity with his knowledge and his time was always appreciated. His commitment to the art of printmaking was outstanding.”

“As lofty as all that might sound, it was as much for a practical application that I thank Jack Cowin. As an aspiring art person, I was aware of the difficulties of making a living in the arts. He taught me about the business of art and how I could become a part of it. He introduced me to people and negotiated on my behalf to place me in some of the most prestigious printmaking shops in North America where I could continue to learn, as well as meet and work with a wide variety of renowned artists. My experiences as a technician at Magnolia Editions in Oakland, California and Landfall Press in Chicago, Illinois, were invaluable. Subsequent to my time there, I received a scholarship to study at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. After receiving my MA, I worked in West Africa and now I am in South Korea, where I have lived for the last 17 years.”

“All of this happened to a large degree because of Jack Cowin. I am no longer involved in the arts but have carried the belief in myself that with Jack's advocacy and encouragement has made for an exciting, rewarding life. Although many years have passed since we have been in contact, I will always fondly remember Jack and the part he played in my life.”

Robert Truszkowski took over Cowin’s role at the University of Regina's Department of Visual Arts.

“The fact that I didn't know Jack Cowin very well doesn't keep me from thinking of him often. I work in his old office and studio on campus, and his fingerprints are all over the Print Media spaces and equipment that I share with my students. Without his steadfast and dedicated commitment to the art form that he and I love so dearly, I would never have come to Saskatchewan from Ontario seven-and-a-half years ago, and I would never have come to know the richness of the culture of this city and this province. So much of what I do in the present hinges upon Jack's incredible 36 years here at the University of Regina."