“Infectious passion.” “Lasting influence.” “Generous.”
Those are a few of the ways that professor Mac Boggs’ colleagues, former students, and friends describe his work as an artist and teacher. Indeed, for the past four decades, he has been a pioneering force on the Converse campus and in the Spartanburg arts community.
In recognition of his impact at Converse and beyond, Boggs received the 2013 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Arts in Education at a May 2 ceremony at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC. The Verner awards are presented by the South Carolina Arts Commission and represent the state’s highest honors in the arts.
“His dedication and commitment have made all the difference for a cadre of artist-teachers and students across the state.”
The SC Arts Commission said of Boggs: “(He) spends enormous amounts of time, energy and expertise advocating for arts education. His dedication and commitment have made all the difference for a cadre of artist-teachers and students across the state.”
Winston Wingo, a highly regarded artist and teacher in Spartanburg, has known Boggs since the 1970s and praised his dedication to his students and to the wider arts community. In a letter of support for Boggs’ Verner nomination, Wingo wrote, “He has for many years…provided me a role model to help guide my career in arts education.” Arts consultant Mac Goodwin also wrote on Boggs’ behalf, noting, “Throughout the years, (Boggs) has given freely of his time and talents – asking for little in return.”
The award is, for Boggs, a capstone to a career that transitions this year with his retirement from Converse College. “I am honored and humbled to receive this major award as one of the highest confirmations of my life’s commitment to art and teaching,” he said. “For the past 43 years, I have been blessed to live the life of an artist and teacher. I have had the freedom to focus on the visual, non-verbal world and the excitement to create my personal interpretation of it. A life of creative thinking is a life of discovery and joy.”
The Verner award is among many honors that have come Boggs’ way over the years. A small sampling:
- In 1972, early in his tenure at Converse, Boggs was named the first recipient of the Kathryne Amelia Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching.
- Boggs and Wingo were officially proclaimed “Honorary Artists” for the City of Spartanburg in 1991.
- Former Spartanburg Mayor James Talley marked the completion of Boggs’ 30th year of teaching by proclaiming April 29, 2000 “Mayo Mac Boggs Day.”
- In 2010-2011, Converse, Wofford College, and USC-Upstate collaborated on a 40-year retrospective of Boggs’ work, displaying more than 100 pieces of his sculpture on the three campuses.
Boggs grew up in Ashland, Kentucky. His father and grandfathers were welders and steelworkers and Boggs was always interested in scrap metal. He made a little spending money by gathering up pieces to sell to nearby businesses, and began developing a sense of shape and structure at an early age.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and the MFA from the University of North Carolina. He has taught at Converse ever since.
Through the years, Boggs has given generously to the arts-related causes in the Spartanburg community. He has collaborated with Converse education professors on summer camp experiences for students with learning disabilities. He has painted murals on the walls of a local school for students with disabilities and consulted with the director of arts at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.
But his focus has remained on teaching students at Converse, challenging them to discover their own creativity and make the most of their potential. “Professor Boggs has had a huge impact on me in a lot of ways; both as an artist guiding me to become a welder and to sculpt big, bold, and beautiful works, and as a person by helping me find my confidence and teaching me to dream without limits,” said Converse senior Bailey Szustak.
Boggs considers himself fortunate to share his passion for art with students. “I love the students,” he said in an article in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “I love watching them go, in a semester or four years, from total confusion, total self-doubt, to seeing themselves blossom and bloom. All it takes is one inspired person in the class to make it all worthwhile.”
Photo credit: Alex Hicks, Jr. of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal