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Memorial Service Planned for 'Tampa's Artist,' Theo Wujcik

USF Contemporary Art Museum

Margaret Miller remembers first meeting Theo Wujcik in 1972, when they shared the same office hallway shortly after both started working at the USF School of Art and Art History.

Miller, now the Director of the USF Institute for Research in Art, would stay late, studying to become a curator. Wujcik would also burn the midnight oil, working intensely on portraits using the traditional technique of silverpoint on paper.

"And he would work all night on a portrait, but he would take a break and he would collect some money from the custodial staff and go off to the dog track and bet for them and then come back and disperse their winnings," Miller said.

"So he'd continue to do that and be inspired, in his own practice, by such things as the dog track and the detritus that he would find on the street or art historical figures that he would stumble on and feel that they were important to his work."

Wujcik's dedication to art - and his fellow artists - will be remembered at a memorial service this Saturday. He passed away on March 29, 2014, after a battle with cancer. Wujcik was 78.

In addition to being a professor at the USF School of Art and Art History from 1972 to 2003, Wujcik was a Master Printer and artist-in-residence at USF Graphicstudio.

"I think most people remember him for his intensity and his commitment to making art and his willingness to be experimental and try out all sorts of different styles and ideas, and even then, to collaborate with not only his students, but other local artists, in a very substantial ways," Miller said.

Credit USF Graphicstudio
USF Graphicstudio
Stanton Storer, Sarah Howard, Bob Ballard, Theo Wujcik, and James Rosenquist at Theo’s “No U Turn” opening in Ybor City in 2012.

Miller is expecting many of those people to attend Saturday's memorial at the Contemporary Art Museum, including Donald Saff, the founder of USF GraphicStudio, and world renowned pop artist James Rosenquist.

"I imagine that the audience is going to be filled with former students and colleagues who he worked with on the faculty, friends from across the country, he was very loved - he's really Tampa's artist," Miller said.

In an article written around the time of his retirement from teaching, Wujcik said that he felt his students taught him as much as he taught them.

"In other words, it was a kind of exchange of ideas - that was what he was so known for," Miller said. "But he really had inspired many, many students, including Mark Stock, who came from California to visit him in the last weeks of his life, and then oddly enough, passed away actually before Theo."

And Wujcik will continue making a difference in the lives of USF Art students.

"An endowed scholarship has been established in his name and anybody can contribute to it," Miller said. "We already have one substantial gift from a collector in the community to start it off, and we're hoping that it builds and that it continues his legacy."

The memorial service and reception celebrating Theo Wujcik's life is Saturday, May 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the USF Contemporary Art Museum at 3821 USF Holly Drive in Tampa.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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