“Kat,” or Katherine, Allie is a visual artist, a teacher, and is the Department Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities, as well as the Art Gallery Manager, at Ozarks Technical College. The day I spent following her around started early in the afternoon in the main Information Commons building at OTC. She was preparing to give a short talk at the OTC Board of Trustees meeting, before hightailing it over to the Gillioz Theatre building to preside over her Painting class.
While we had a few minutes she told me how she got to where she is today... and it’s a long, involved story full of twists and turns. A Willard native, Kat was heavily involved in extracurricular activities at Willard High School, where she graduated in 1989. She says she “especially enjoyed drama and band. After high school my family moved to Kansas, and I went to Fort Scott Community College for the first two years. And I went on a band, drama and dance scholarship.”
Kat transferred to the University of Kansas, and her emphasis at that time was going to be, of all things, broadcast journalism. But when her first instructor said his students would be lucky to start out in the field at $15,000 a year, Kat changed majors... to speech pathology. After graduation, job prospects seemed bleak, so Kat moved to Chicago and worked in special-event planning for several years. “But on the side,” she says, “I was always doing artwork—but I had never taken an art class. Art was something my family always did—my dad was a very good artist, but he was an engineer.”
In Chicago Kat took some community classes in art. At age 28 she decided to go back to school to study art. “And right away, I just felt—I finally found my niche. This is where I’m supposed to be.” She completed a Masters in Painting at Pittsburgh State University in 2004. Her husband’s job transferred him to Springfield, so she came back to southwest Missouri, taught art at MSU and OTC, and is now the Fine Arts and Humanities Department chair at OTC. In the latter capacity she was to make a brief presentation to the OTC Board of Trustees on this particular day.
She tells the Trustees about the OTC Choral Ensembles winter concert scheduled for the next evening. “We have Alberta Smith, Director or OTC Concert Choir and Chamber Singers—they’re going to give us a little preview.” After introducing a well-received performance by the OTC Chamber Singers, Kat Allie and I made a quick exit and headed over to her office in OTC’s Fine Arts and Humanities Department on the third floor of the Gillioz Theatre building. Kat Allie spends much of her time shuffling between OTC and the Gillioz.
She says she teaches four classes per semester at OTC, on top of her administrative duties. “I have one online Art History class. I like to teach painting classes, of course, because that’s my major and (I) love it. Then I’ll teach an ‘Art and Experience’ or an Art History. Next semester I’ll teach a Two-Dimensional Design (class).”
This afternoon Kat was planning to give final oral critiques to her Painting class for their individual series of paintings. This class has a half-dozen student, all of whom seem to display quite a lot of artistic talent. Kat asks one of the students, Mason, to discuss his three-panel anatomical study which combined paintings of a knee, a chest and a head overlaid with graph paper on which he had drawn mechanical analogues of these various body parts, such as gears and clockwork for the heart and an internal-combustion engine for the brain.
Kat the art professor listens quietly while the students make their presentations, both positives and self-criticism. Mason considers the one “glaring flaw” in his paintings was his application of the graph paper: “it didn’t turn out how I wanted it.” He admits he isn’t yet 100 percent sure of the definitive interpretation of his paintings, indicating that it’s a work-in-progress.
Kat then offers her critique, which is, on the whole, quite positive. “I like them. I think it’s a great concept, it’s very unique. I like that you tried mixed media... good job!” She leads the class in applauding Mason’s work. Later she says, “That’s why I love teaching so much—it’s that each day is different. I feel like we really are making a difference in the classroom and outside of the classroom.
A fairly typical day for Kat Allie: teacher, working artist, academic administrator... not what she starting out wanting to do, but as she says, she’s definitely found her niche. For KSMU, I'm Randy Stewart.