Clarence Morgan's Final Semester Teaching at UMN Art

The drawing and painting professor is transitioning to a full-time studio practice.
Clarence Morgan standing in front of Regis Center next to a 10 ft tall red metal letter A sculpture
Morgan in 2007 next to work by Peter Haakon Thompson (MFA '10) appreciating "A" for "Art"

About Clarence Morgan and His Work

The path to becoming an artist is rarely the result of a clearly defined plan and certainly not for the faint of heart. However, for those who make the necessary sacrifices and continue to be passionate about making art an integral part of their lives, the rewards are beyond measure.

Clarence Morgan

From Lamar Peterson, Associate Professor

In his time at the University of Minnesota, Clarence’s impact on students has been far reaching. He was a dedicated educator and colleague who not only mentored students but helped me become a better teacher by example. I find it hard to even describe the many ways he has impacted me and everyone he has known.

Clarence joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1992 and served as the Chair from 2005 to 2010. During his ongoing career, he has received accolades for his art which has been included in numerous museums, galleries, and institutions, and he has received many awards, grants, fellowships and invitations to be a visiting artist, but it is his work with students and colleagues that we honor here. (You can see more about his career on his artist website.)

As an example of the ways he touched generations of students who had the opportunity to work with him, recently, Josh Ostraff, a former graduate student from our MFA program and now current educator, wrote Clarence a touching email: 

Your mentorship towards my work and as a young father and husband was extremely impactful. I have small and simple things you shared with me in my studio that made all the difference. More than once I have reflected on the way you carried yourself and the relationship you have with your family. I am extremely grateful for the chance to work with you and to learn from your example. I feel fortunate I have had great people like yourself to model true leadership. Thank you for being such a positive influence.

~Josh Ostraff, MFA '12, Professor of Art, Prince George's Community College

Coming Soon in the Nash Gallery

The Katherine E. Nash Gallery will honor the work of Clarence and his beloved artist wife Arlene Burke-Morgan (1950-2017) with an exhibition January 17 - March 25, 2023 entitled, A Tender Spirit, A Vital Form: Arlene Burke-Morgan & Clarence Morgan. The exhibition consists of approximately 50 works by each artist, plus ephemera, including sketchbooks, photographs, etc. A richly illustrated, hardcover catalog of the exhibition including full-page color images and essays about the artists will be available for purchase. 

Things I Learned from Professor Clarence Morgan 2012-2021 

From Mathew Zefeldt, Associate Professor, December 2021

  • Drawing is a valuable way to create and organize ideas. 
  • It’s ok to make a mess, as long as you clean it up before you leave. 
  • Other people writing about your work is important. 
  • Abstraction can be a vessel for content. 
  • Curiosity is more important than talent. 
  • It’s important to get out of Minnesota (occasionally or permanently) 
  • If you go to school for art, and your art doesn’t change, you wasted your time and/or money. 
  • You can make a whole body of work even if you are stuck at your son’s house thousands of miles away during a global pandemic. 
  • Your mark-making says something about who you are. 
  • Perceptions can become realities. 
  • Conversation, writing, and thinking around art are just as vital as the making process.
  • It’s important to check in with your students to see how they are feeling.
  • There is a difference in what you have time for versus what you make time for.
  • As an artist, there is no such thing as “the weekend”. 
  • It’s nice to be friends with your colleagues.

From Clarence Morgan

Throughout my time here at the University of Minnesota, I consider myself fortunate to have developed and sustained a creative way of life that is intricately connected to teaching.  However, being a professor also provides opportunities to learn from those I work with including fellow faculty, staff as well as students. The process of learning is a never-ending affair full of discoveries, successes, and failures. To be brutally honest, in my experience teaching studio courses for the past forty-three years I have seen many changes requiring me to make adjustments pedagogically and personally regarding my expectations and responsibilities.

By all accounts, as faculty, staff and students, we find ourselves amid unparalleled changes in the way we work and how we define the work we do. For faculty in the Department of Art, this is especially true regarding how we are engaged in our professional practice as artists, teaching, and what loosely can be described as academic service. The definition of each of the aforementioned have been expanded in certain ways and narrowed in other ways. However, remaining open-minded is the key, in my opinion, to not simply surviving unforeseen circumstances, but learning ways to thrive during unstable and unpredictable times is a workable blueprint for the future. 

The path to becoming an artist is rarely the result of a clearly defined plan and certainly not for the faint of heart. However, for those who make the necessary sacrifices and continue to be passionate about making art an integral part of their lives, the rewards are beyond measure.

Although I am excited in my preparation for a new journey, I pray for help and guidance along the way. I leave the University of Minnesota with many fond memories and feel honored by the people I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. I am optimistic about the department's future and know that change is inevitable for things to grow. 

~Clarence Morgan, Professor of Art Practice, December 2021

Clarence Morgan - Notes On Process

A 2021 video of Clarence working filmed by Kevin Obsatz, MFA ‘15:

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