Grad working at Smithsonian on papers of former professor

  Sunday, April 29, 2018 10:00 AM
  News, Arts & Entertainment, Alumni

Pittsburg, KS

Graduate and professor

Getting hired as an intern by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art was a welcome surprise for PSU alumnus Ross Schartel and his former art professor, S. Portico Bowman. 

"To my knowledge, Ross is Pitt State's first graduate to work there," Bowman said. 

But an even bigger surprise awaited Schartel when he showed up for his first day of work: seven boxes of papers by a world-renowned artist had been delivered the day before, and his task was to help unpack, decipher, and annotate them. 

The artist to whom they belonged? 

The late Marjorie Schick, who taught for 50 years in the PSU Art Department and for whom Schartel had worked his senior year. 

Schick, who died Dec. 17, 2017, was known internationally for her wearable art. A retrospective of her work, hosted by International Arts and Artists of Washington D.C., was exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the U.S. and Europe through 2008 and most of 2009.  

It also can be found in museums and private collections around the world, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway; the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; and the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh.   

To prepare for her retrospective show at Porter Hall in Spring 2017, Schick had used Schartel as an assistant. 

Following his graduation with a history degree and a minor in art, Schartel, a native of Independence, Missouri, went to work for the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City. 

He kept in touch with faculty here, stopping to see professors like Bowman on campus whenever he was passing through Pittsburg. In fact, it was Bowman's connections that helped him secure the job at the Smithsonian, which is to last through May. 

"I was at the Ceramics Research Center in Tempe, Arizona, digitizing oral interviews with 1,367 studio artists, from 1976 to 2009, as part of a sabbatical," Bowman said. "I wanted Ross to see the richness of that environment, because of his love of history, art, and archiving." 

So Schartel paid her a visit and was introduced to people who knew people. 

"Before I knew it, I'd landed something at the Smithsonian that is just perfect," Schartel said. "It just goes to show that faculty care about students here even after they're gone. They stay in touch, they want to see you succeed." 

And now, Schartel is playing "first eyes" on the documents of a faculty member who influenced hundreds of students at PSU, including him, over five decades. 

"Smithsonian staff hadn't even had the chance to unpack it all," Schartel said. "They knew I was from Pitt, and had some connection, but hadn't realized how close." 

His connection to Schick helped when it came to identifying dates, places, and names in the documents.  

He's also learning things he hadn't known before about his former professor and her work. Schick was Schartel's professor in classes such as crafts, jewelry, and an independent study. He was devastated to learn of her death last fall, but elated to be given such a special task at a nationally-revered institution. 

"It feels very odd to go from working with Marjorie, to working on Marjorie, but I've kept the same level of admiration for her," he said. "I can't even begin to talk about how influential Marjorie is/was/will be in my work and thoughts." 

Learn more about PSU's Art Department at and History Department at