Barbara Cohenour first met artist Mark Fletcher while acting as judge for a local art exhibition. As an art historian, educator, and now curator of the Tallahassee Community College’s Fine Art Gallery, Cohenour rememberschoosing his work for best in show.
She was enthralled by how he combined watercolors with words, putting his visual imagery next to his poetry within a painting. Cohenour maintained a relationship with Fletcher beyond this first encounter and is gearing up for an opening reception of his work in the TCC Fine Art Gallery on Jan. 17.
“Here is a poem that comes to life with visual images,” says Cohenour of Fletcher’s body of work. “I think that’s pretty spectacular.”
Cohenour’s background blends her passions for art history with curation, which has led to a vibrant career. Growing up in Oklahoma City, Cohenour would paint and draw, and enjoyed geometry in school where she could bisect 3D models with shapes and planes.
In college, she pursued both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in art before starting her first university teaching position at age 25. Even as a teacher, she was always ready to continue her own education.
“I never thought I could go in to teach unless I went in with something new that I had learned,” says Cohenour. “It didn’t have to be earth shaking but if I had discovered a new work by an artist and had done some research, I felt I could do a better job.”
Art grabbed her mind in ways that no other subject could. While she enjoyed making art, reading and studying about its impacts on society soon outweighed her passion for producing.
Cohenour was amazed by how abstract philosophies could transform into tangible objects like a painting on a wall. “You can change the religion, the political setting, what people are interested in, and the art also changes,” says Cohenour. “It’s a real simple concept that everyone understands but it was the thing that got me really interested in art history. If I know why this looks like that, I know what it’s trying to say to me.”
Cohenour found herself in the right place at the right time when televised college courses innovated distance learning on campuses. She began teaching art history in 30-minute segments, which eventually led her to working with PBS. Cohenour co-created a biweekly show that took her into museums, artist studios and historic homes.
Given the twists and turns in her career, Cohenour says she owes much to staying humble and greeting every new opportunity or challenge with a smile. She credits her father for instilling this sense of workmanship, which encourages everyone to go the extra mile.
“I’m willing to put the shoulder to the wheel and the mind to the job and get it done,” says Cohenour.
After 25 years of teaching and many more years of curation, Cohenour’s tenacity brought her face to face with retirement, however she was in no mood to slow down. Instead, she took on her most recent position as curator for TCC.
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