Balancing two passions can be an overwhelming task, but University of Tampa professor Jack King does his best to divide his energy in equal measure. Now in his twenty-third year at UT, King both teaches and practices art for a living—a lifestyle he describes as understandably “exhaustive,” but “always rewarding.”King has been an artist “with seriousness and intensity” since 1966. Working primarily in ceramics and sculpture, King calls this balancing act “one of the biggest challenges an art professor faces.” He points toward the mental difficulty of having two primary passions, aside from the more obvious physical complications of time management.
“It’s much more than just a matter of scheduling one’s time,” King said. “Students involved in the creation of art soon realize the exhaustive part of the process is not so much the physical exertion, even though that can be significant, but more the mental exhaustion which arises from the issues encountered in problem solving.”
This is especially difficult in the arts, according to King, due to the unexpected complications that can arise in the creative process, and the lack of correct or incorrect solutions to these complications.
“There are no text books, no equations, no experts one can go to for a solution to the current problem you may be having with a particular piece,” King said. “This can be extremely frustrating.”
King stressed the importance of not providing a clear answer for his students’ problems, and instead helping to guide them towards a mindset where they can solve them of their own accord. Carly Vitolo, a senior art therapy major, has experienced this first hand as one of his students.
“Jack is extremely passionate about encouraging students to think creatively in alternative ways,” Vitolo said.
As an artist who has encountered these issues in creating his own work, King knows this is the best way for them to hone and develop their craft.
“Going through this process, developing the stamina such requires is an essential part of becoming an artist,” King said.
But professor King never downplays the satisfaction of following through with one’s creativity.
“So why would any artists endure such travails? Simple, the joys, the pleasures, the excitement of finding a solution makes everything else worth the effort,” King said.
While encouraging and assisting his students in sculpting and other artistic pursuits, King never forgets the pleasure of producing his own work, which he said is inspired primarily by current events, modern fiction and classic literature.
“For centuries, artists have given visual form to human thoughts, ideas, aspirations, etc. which are articulated in literature and poetry,” King said. “Currently I’m fascinated by The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. The important point is I’ve no interest in providing a visual illustration for Dante’s vision, but rather using his vision to inspire mine – rethink his ideas in a contemporary vernacular.”
An alumnus of the university himself, King has also had a big hand in expanding the art department at UT—he’s part of the reason why the university now has a growing art therapy program. He plans to aid in the continuation of this expansion going forward, hoping to “afford UT students greater options and possibilities to incorporate the visual arts into their long range educational plans.”
King has also been sculpting pieces to serve as award statues for The National Society of Teachers of Family Practice Medicine since 1985, and is contracted to do so for at least the next ten years.
He continues to display his latest work in faculty art shows, which take place in the fall of every school year, while also working with private individuals. Some of his work can also be seen at his website, jackking.net.
Jordan Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org