DELAWARE, Ohio — Early in his career, Delaware artist Marty Kalb found himself at a crossroads: Would it be starving artist or academic?
In the 1960s, the native of Brooklyn, New York, had to decide between striking out on his own as an artist or seeking a career in higher education.
“Working strictly as an artist in relation to a gallery, and trying to promote one’s work, is a very, very different kind of life than working at a university,” Kalb said. “It involves connecting with people for the purpose of strictly promoting what you’re doing.”
Work at a university, on the other hand, promised job security.
For the next 40 years, from 1967 to 2007, Kalb would manage to enjoy the best of both worlds: While employed as an art instructor and eventually a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, he maintained a sideline as a widely exhibited artist. Kalb is now a professor emeritus at the school.
“I thought that being an educator and an artist was more suited to my personality and temperament,” said Kalb, now 76. “It was also, in my view, liberating in terms of how I would make choices about what I would want to make as an artist.”
Paintings by Kalb are part of the collections of such institutions as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Later this week, Ohio Wesleyan will honor the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Kalb’s tenure with a retrospective at the university’s Ross Art Museum. The exhibit, scheduled to run from Thursday to Oct. 8, will showcase about 50 pieces, representing just a sliver of his life’s work.
“He’s always painted — he’s never stopped painting,” said assistant museum director Tammy Wallace, who studied under Kalb while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Ohio Wesleyan. “Each painting that gets hung is going to basically be carrying the weight of an entire year or more.”