Iowa honors local printmaker
Lasansky founded UI program
The man largely responsible for establishing the University of Iowa's printmaking department as the world's finest has been named the latest recipient of tis state's most prestigious honor for citizenship, the Iowa Award.
Mauricio Lasansky, Iowa City resident and professor emeritus of art and art history at UI, is scheduled to receive the award at 5:30 p.m. today in a ceremony at the Old Capital on the Pentacrest.
Among those in attendance will be Gov. Tom Vilsack, UI President Mary Sue Coleman, and members of the Iowa Centennial Memorial Foundation, which established the award in 1948.
Lasansky, 84, left an oppressive military government in Argentina in 1943 to come to the United States after receiving the first of his five Guggenheim Fellowships. He was recruited to UI by then-UI president Virgil M. Hancher, primarily to establish the school's printmaking program.
While at UI, Lasansky developed the model for printmaking programs everywhere. Several of his former students now head printmaking departments at major universities.
Lasansky has received 175 awards, and his work can be seen in more than 140 museums worldwide. He is widely known for his drawings depicting Nazi Concentration camps during World War II. A collection of his works is permanently on display in the UI Museum of Art.
Still, Lasansky said, the Iowa Award is a singular honor.
"This is where my family and I have lived for over 50 years," he said. "I could have went anywhere, I had offers from all over, but I chose to stay here. It's very special to be recognized in Iowa."
Lasansky was notified by a personal phone call from Vilsack that he would receive the award.
Lasansky said his family fell in love with Iowa the first day they arrived. He and his wife, Emilia, have raised their six children in the Hawkeye state.
From a professional standpoint, Lasansky said the chance to develop students in one program over so many years was the pinnacle for an educator.
"I don't regret one day of my teaching," he said.
Virginia Myers, a UI professor who came to work in the printmaking department in 1955, is unabashed about her respect for Lasansky.
"The one reason I came here was to work with Mauricio Lasansky," Myers says. "The art world owes him a lot."
After retiring in 1984 at age 70, Lasansky kept busy diligently producing original work at his private studio at 216 E. Washington St.
The legendary figure said he continues to refine art, experimenting with new styles and content. Even an award as highly regarded as his latest hasn't altered his focus.
"After all, (the Iowa Award) is the kind of thing that happens to you when you get old," he said. "It is very nice to have people recognize you, but that cannot be what keeps you going."
The award's guidelines state that it is given to encourage the outstanding service of Iowans in the fields of science, medicine, law, religion, social welfare, education, agriculture, industry, government and other public service.
Lasansky has donated more than 300 of his works to Iowa museums.
Reprinted from Iowa City Press Citizen,
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