Regis Shephard working on his 2005 Artpace "Chalk it Up" public art piece, photo by and courtesy of Lloyd Walsh
Grief is a process, y'all.
To that end, I'm here to post some really lovely tributes that were e-mailed or Facebook-ed to me right after his death. Keep on making comments here or on his Facebook page, too. I know it means a lot to his family.
And yet another plea for your help: willing volunteers for an upcoming Regis memorial/scholarship fundraiser please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with REGIS SHEPHARD MEMORIAL in the subject line.
Oh! First, here's a Regis story: Regis was well-known for being the greatest hugger of all time. It's been said time and again, and is true. I'm not always an automatic-hug person, but anytime I laid eyes on Regis, I'd fairly leap into his arms. Regis never did that tepid crouch-and-pat-you-on-the back maneuver, nor squeeze the life out of you, and never felt awkward, or creepy. He had hug magic. I'm almost throwing up at the saccharine writing I'm doing here, but I am for serious.
Anyway, are y'all familiar with that "Christian Side Hug" viral video?
Well, here it is.
I posted this on my Facebook page months ago and snarked all on it, as did many others. Regis's comment though was the most awesome. It was "forget the Christian Side Hug. I want full frontal with arched backs."
Now, some beautiful things people in the neighborhood have said.
Regis gave me my first teaching job after grad school, and stood by me as I fumbled my way through my first semesters as a teacher, making sure I had consistent work for 4 years afterward. He was always supportive, poking his head into clas...s to check on me, talking me through problems and discussing the design of new projects - I could count on his door always being open. When I started applying for full time positions, Regis helped me out, giving me feedback on my portfolio, and writing me a recommendation letter every time I asked him for one, in spite of the demands of his job as chair. Even when I got the position and moved far away, I still got the occasional email, asking after me and how I was doing. Regis was kind, patient, generous and gracious, never asking for anything in return. His sensibilities as an artist and professor definitely helped to frame my own expectations for myself. For all of this I am still thankful, even though I'm not sure I ever got to tell him properly. His death yesterday was shocking to me and to everyone who knew him, but I take consolation in the impression he made while he was here, and hope that one day I can measure up.
He was unchangeable in his ways. A humble sincere professor and
unique artist who made me laugh with his two-step dance at the office when
things got tough. St. Philip's College has lost a great professor, Chairman,
and Colleague and I have lost my friend.
Last year, I took an evening painting class, with a different instructor, Regis would make his visits often with the students and our instructor to check how we were progressing in our art work. He would go around the class and see everyone’s works and was impressed with their work. Regis care about his students and St. Philip's College. How often do you see a Department Chairperson visit classes and speak with the instructor and students. He will be missed dearly here at St. Philip's College.
Nancy N. Anguiano
MY MOTHER WORKED FOR REGIS AT ST PHILLIPS COLLEGE AS HIS SECRETARY. WHEN HIS MOTHER CALLED HER TONITE SHE WAS IN TEARS. SHE ALWAYS HAD GREAT THINGS TO SAY ABOUT REGIS AND HE ATTENDED MANY OF OUR FAMILY FUNCTIONS. HE WAS THE REAL DEAL AND WILL BE DEARLY MISSED.. IM SURE HE TOUCHED MANY PEOPLE'S LIVES AT ST. PHILLIPS AND IN THE MUSIC AND ART SOCIETY HERE IN S.A. OUR PRAYERS ARE WITH HIS FAMILY.
DEBBIE J. FONSECA
We went to grad school together and he stood in my graduating class as one of the greats. Before any of us were teaching, Regis was, and before most of us were even working full-time, Regis was chair of St. Phillip's art department and full-time faculty. He took his work and his job seriously and tirelessly shaped a department that suffered budget cuts and lack of full-time teachers until very recently. Regis believed in making the art program at St. Phillip's part digital and he was intelligent enough to become fluent in the latest technology, in addition to understanding that his students needed practical as well as creative skills. He encouraged me to try new things, such as getting certified to teach online, which he believed would be in demand long before it was at ACCD. I wasn't the least interested in doing this until Regis suggested it. I was always impressed with his community involvements, such as creating artwork each year for "Chalk it Up", jurying student exhibitions, and serving on the board at Blue Star Art Space. He created opportunities for students and teachers and often showed up in the audience local music gigs (mine included).
Regis was a calm in the storm. He was a very balanced mix of humble and self assured; unflappable it seemed. In the half a decade that I spent with him, I can't recall him ever acting angry... even when I'm pretty sure he was angry. Truthfully, nothing seemed to get him down. I'm still not certain whether he channeled all of his negativity into his art, or whether he was simply so well balanced an individual that he could observe the negativity in the world with an objective eye and comment on it with his art. Either way, he was an incredible man. I only regret that I didn't realize just how important he is to me until this week.
His personality suited him well for his position in academia. He didn't bring a lot of ego to the table, even though he'd probably earned it. He just listened, tried to understand, and did the best he could with the resources and information available. We didn't always agree, but he was always receptive to my thoughts. He took the time to stay informed, and steer the direction of his department, while still allowing individuals the flexibility to excel. His support and understanding have helped me tremendously over the years. I only hope he knows how much he is loved and appreciated.
I am saddened and shocked at the loss of this great artist and friend. He was interested and supportive of what others were doing, be it music, art, or academia. Regis showed up at many of the art and music events I've had over the years - always the smiling, supportive face in the crowd.
Regis and I went to grad school together and graduated the same year - '96. That graduating class of artists included some now prolific folks - Regis, Nate Cassie, Chris Sauter, Karen Mahaffy, Veronica Fernandez, and Joan Fabian. He later became a supporter of mine in the teaching field - always offering career advice and encouragement. I interviewed for a teaching position at St. Phillip's twice in the past 7 years and applied three times, partly because I knew he was overloaded there and needed help but also because I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. He truly had a vision for St. Phillip's art department and I was so psyched at the possibility of working for Regis. When it fell apart due to budget cuts, he was very encouraging and told me to keep trying and helped me to stay on my path. Because of his career advice, I went through training at my college and became certified to teach online. He knew this would be a good move and wanted me to succeed. Anytime there was a full-time art position opening at his college or another he thought of me and emailed or called. Anytime there was a class he needed to fill, he contacted me in case I could teach it. He always thought of others and tirelessly worked hard to shape the St. Phillip's art department. It was finally coming together with a recent full-time hire and he would have more help, but help came too late, it seems.
I'll never forget that he made time to be a guest artist for my drawing class my first semester teaching at SAC over a decade ago. By that time, he was already teaching full-time at St. Phillip's and was exhibiting like mad. Regis blew their minds with his sketches and finished works. He was a natural communicator and just being able to say we went to school together filled me with pride.
Regis was the anomaly in a city that is under-represented by black artists in galleries, museums, and academia. He will continue to give inspiration to young artists that wonder what they can do with an art degree. He stood out as a true mentor and down-to-earth talent in a field often saturated with egos and pretention.
Jessica Barnett DeCuir
I am a former student of Regis Shephard. I'm an aspiring artist just on my way out to Chicago to complete my degree, I can honestly say that without the guidance, wisdom, and push of Mr. Shephard I would not be 2 weeks away from leaving the city I am from, to chase my dreams in Chicago! Just a few months ago Mr.Shephard allowed me the opportunity to try a new class/course he had come up with, it was basically the two of us meeting every Friday morning to turn me into a "legit" artist, we created my portfolio, my artist statement, narrowed down a selection of schools and just got to talk about art, he always listened to my dreams and aspirations and ALWAYS encouraged me to follow them, he made me believe this whole "art thing" could actually work. I first met Mr. Shephard about 6 years ago, I was only around 16 years old and was taking a Saturday morning painting class at St.Phillip's, the last few years went by faster than I could ever explain, I felt like Regis was literally a part of my school life since I was 16, I am now 22 years old and feel like I have lost a mentor and a friend. I just got accepted to SAIC and emailed Regis to brag a couple weeks ago, I wish my email was a little longer, but I'm glad he got to hear the news. I think he always knew I would end up going to Chicago, I think he really thought I had what it takes to make it as an artist. I’m so amazed at what has happen but I feel proud to say that Regis Shephard was my Professor, friend and so much more, I don't think he ever knew how much it meant to have someone as talented as him, tell ME that I had what it takes. I would leave our meeting every Friday feeling like the dopest artist around.
It is heartwarming to witness all the love that the San Antonio community had for him. The thing that strikes me as so significant is that everyone seems to have felt the same things about him. He was kind, unassuming, and hard working. Everyone felt his sincerity. He really was an incredible artist, I am sorry he did not live long enough to see the national recognition he deserved. He was definitely on his way.