Tom Yancey's Inspiration Lives On

Inspiration.JPGOn a fall afternoon in Fayette, a gentle breeze sweeps through campus. The orange and red leaves glide purposefully to the ground. And as the sun tries to hide behind Classic Hall, it dispatches its remaining warmth across Central Methodist University’s newest sculpture – Inspiration.

Without fanfare, Inspiration was installed in early October. The sculpture stands nearly eight feet tall, and its painted steel exudes both strength and peace at the same time. Inspiration was commissioned by the Ashby-Hodge Gallery Board with memorial funds from the friends and patrons of the Gallery to honor the contributions and legacy of a strong and peaceful man, Tom Yancey, one of Central’s most iconic and longest-tenured faculty members. Yancey died in 2019.

“Tom would have liked Inspiration,” said Joe Geist, registrar of the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art and Yancey’s companion of 45 years. “He was very inspirational himself, and it fits his character, and personality and dedication.”

Geist said the placement of the sculpture is “just perfect” near the sidewalk outside of Classic Hall.

“It’s like an invitation to the gallery and to Classic Hall,” said Geist. “It’s beautiful, warm, and welcoming.”

Inspiration was created by Rita Blitt, an international award-winning, painter, sculptor, and filmmaker from Leawood, Kansas. Geist said she was a perfect choice to do the sculpture, given that “her thinking is very in tune and aligned with Central’s mission.”

Inspiration’s installation was without fanfare thanks to the worldwide pandemic. Geist said the sculpture was scheduled to come to the grounds of Classic Hall in April 2019. But “things pretty much shut down in March. We had been thinking about quite a dedication ceremony. Now, we’re just happy it has arrived.”

Yancey joined the faculty at Central in 1958, and served as a beloved teacher and mentor to hundreds of students at the Swinney Conservatory of Music – covering six decades. Besides being an accomplished musician, he was a well-known artist.

“Professor Tom Yancey made a lasting impression on Central,” said President Roger Drake. “Tom frequently mentioned how lucky he was to have the best job in the world – music and art. We were the lucky ones to have him in our presence.”

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