Laura Hill Chapman: a Memorial

By Marlene Steele, gently edited by Mark Schlachter

By Marlene Steele, gently edited by Mark Schlachter

Born April 24, 1935, in Miami, Florida, a resident of Cincinnati since 1970, passed away at her residence on August 17, 2021

Last Sunday, a select segment of the local community was invited to attend a long awaited memorial of our dear friend and colleague, Laura H. Chapman.The eclectic setting of Ruth’s Cafe in Northside was populated with academic colleagues and personal friends. Photo books, displayed for browsing, documented Laura’s early youth and advancement through the decades. Several of her original artworks in a variety of media were displayed about on easels, surprising many of us with their verve and accomplishment. Amid these elements, spirits were light. 

The passing of Dr. Laura Hill Chapman was noted resoundingly across the field of art education internationally.

I will mention here several highlights of Laura’s extensive curriculum vitae.

Through six decades, Laura contributed to her field on many levels. As teacher, author, researcher, consultant and presenter, Dr. Laura Chapman placed art education in the broader context of secular education as a tool for formulating not only a knowledge of artistic heritage but also the role of art in society. She was an instructor in the trenches, first at 4 elementary schools, then at Indiana University and The Ohio State University and as assistant Professor in Art Education at The University of Illinois. 

Laura was a contributing writer with Davis Publications, with whom she published several textbooks for art education in grades 1 through 8. She presented the theory that important art concepts, skills and themes can be introduced and developed systematically in early education. In 1972-1973, Dr. Chapman served as a consultant to the Ohio State Department of Education, conducting training workshops to implement the new state curriculum guide in art.

Dr. Chapman was invited to present her critical analysis on art curriculum development in over 40 states nationally and several countries internationally. Her ideas about art curriculum content were encapsulated in the 1978 publication of Approaches to Art in Education, the text that became a classic in art teacher preparation programs, only one of many volumes that she researched and published. Certainly her impact has benefitted generations of teachers and their students going forward.

For her commitment and intellect, Dr. Chapman was nominated for and awarded the Elliot W. Eisner Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

For me, Laura’s personal friendship and support sustained confidence in the possibilities that can be realized with persistence, planning and the ability to roll with the punches. Mark Schlachter shared fond thoughts of Laura with the group. His personal account could not avoid alluding to the Renick-Chapman phenomenon, a cyclone of energy and creativity in our midst. Entertaining stories of Laura’s conspiratorial role in planning and constructing Patricia Renick’s sculptures were recounted by several attendees. Mark Schlachter also reflected on Laura’s presence as a member of our diverse and discriminating Tuesday lunch group, an eclectic array of multi-disciplinary characters for whom entertaining conversation was always on the menu.

Many of the gathered rose to speak on this special occasion and share their favorite episodic encounters. But it was Mark’s concluding statement that I found to be most poignant and profound: “Laura’s greatest creative effort and success was US. She introduced so many of us to each other. She was the catalyst for many friendships. She was the nexus of an amazing and unique community. 

We owe her so much, and I am proud to be part of her benign odd lot.”