October 16, 2014
Charles Mayer ’64 knew from a young age that art was his passion. “By the time I was through elementary school, I had become the artist of the class. And from there I always knew.”
So it made sense for Mayer to enroll in CIA, where he majored in art education. His time at CIA would lay the groundwork for his teaching career in the Sandusky (Ohio) city schools. “I learned a lot about discernment, quality, and standards because some of my teachers were the best people in their fields at that time.”
Although content teaching, when a vacant room in the high school emerged as a place to feature local artists’ works and traveling exhibits in the late 1960s, Mayer jumped at the chance to curate. The Sandusky Cultural Center, as the room became known, evolved under the leadership of Mayer and Frank Smith, creator of the center. Mayer quickly realized that in order to sustain people’s interests, he would need to push for more ambitious exhibitions. An early highlight for him was orchestrating several one-person shows featuring his CIA professors and artists of the college – including Edwin Mieczkowski ’57, Viktor Schreckengost ’29, and Julian Stanczak ’54. Today, the cultural center is recognized for its tradition of artistic and educational excellence – hosting a wide variety of exhibits by acclaimed local and regional artists each year.
As director of the center for over 27 years, Mayer continues to draw upon his CIA education and its connections. He regularly features CIA grads and supports their work, describing their involvement as “a way of keeping the quality up there and also injecting young blood into our operation, which is vital in order to keep going.” Additionally, he takes pride in encouraging and mentoring these young artists, remembering how his professors guided him.
Mayer’s commitment to CIA runs deep. As a Schreckengost Society Member, he recognizes the importance of consistently supporting the college: “It was where I grew up. The Cleveland Institute of Art is still my home base, even though I don’t actually spend time there anymore. I have students of my own that have gone on to study there and graduate. Now they have friends there, and I’ve come to know their friends. It’s a whole new generation.”
This past spring, CIA President Grafton Nunes had the opportunity to visit Mayer at his home and cultural center in Sandusky. Mayer found it encouraging to hear Nunes speak about the continued emphasis on craftsmanship at CIA– a principle that Mayer believes is crucial for art students. Assured that this whole new generation can expect to receive the same high-quality arts education that he did, Mayer is committed to supporting CIA and its graduates as long as he can.
Above: Charles Mayer '64.
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