Julia Marshall, Influential San Francisco State Arts Educator, Dies at 74

As a professor at San Francisco State University, Julie Marshall taught her students how to use art to solve personal problems, a process she used during her own four-year struggle with a bone marrow disorder.

During long treatment sessions, she took the IV drip in her left arm to leave her right arm free to draw interpretations from the IV bag that was her go-to companion. His goal was a triptych of paintings that reinvented the drip bag as a personal totem. Each painting was offset by a mouse, a rabbit and a canary to symbolize its own vulnerability.

Marshall had finished the first two and was working on the third when she entered the hospital on February 10. She died five days later at UCSF Parnassus from complications related to aplastic anemia, a disease in which the bone marrow is unable to produce blood properly. cells. She was 74 years old.

“Julia has always used visual imagery to expand her verbal ways of thinking about issues that concern her, involving both the world at large and her own thoughts,” said her husband Leonard Turner, an art teacher at the retired to SF State. “Once she became terminally ill, her emotions overwhelmed her logical mind, and the paintings depict her sense of urgency and what fate had in store for her.

Marshall’s approach to art education is now widely publicized, both by the art teachers and teachers she trained during her 20 years at SF State and in the textbooks she has. written and co-written.

His major courses at SF State were called “Art for Children” and “Curriculum and Instruction in Art,” two requirements for the K-12 single-subject teaching credential in California. Her classes were always full, usually with a waiting list.

“What was so cool was that we were doing art at the same time as we were learning to be art teachers,” said Lisa Hochtritt, who studied with Marshall and later taught art at Half Moon Bay High School. .

“Julia had a kiln, she had paints, she brought tons of art-making materials. And she didn’t just give us assignments. She would work with us too. She was curious about everything and everyone and made it so much fun,” Hochtritt said.

When Mozelle da Costa Pinto graduated from SF State and was hired at Sequoia High School in Redwood City 26 years ago, she structured her introductory art class in the thematic style in which Marshall the has formed. curiosity blended into the creative process. To guide her, da Costa Pinto keeps two of Marshall’s textbooks on her classroom shelf.

“I literally carry it with me every day and every time I think about lesson development,” da Costa Pinto said. “If the students are laughing or finding joy in the creative process, that’s how I know Julia is there.”

Julia Newell Marshall was born on December 9, 1947 in Red Wing, Minnesota, a small town south of Minneapolis. As a child, Marshall wrote and illustrated an accordion book called “Arbutus the Turtle”, and she was on her way.

“She never quit. Almost every day she was doing art or teaching art,” her older sister, Caroline Marshall, said. “She had a little art school in the basement of our home where she taught the neighborhood kids how to make art.”

Marshall attended Barlow School of Art boarding school in Amenia, NY and from there went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she earned her bachelor’s degree in studio art in 1969. Her MFA in sculpture is came from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His master’s project was a life-size Egyptian sarcophagus.

“She was eccentric and had a wonderful sense of fantasy,” her sister said.

This became evident in the summer of 1973, when Marshall convinced her to tour Europe in a Volkswagen bus they purchased from a military base in Germany. The sisters left in May and by the end of the summer they had arrived in Venice. Caroline had to go home for work, so Julia drove her to the airport and then continued. She drove this VW bus through Italy and Turkey and on to Kathmandu, meeting fellow travelers at campsites along the way.

When she finally returned to the United States, she moved to San Francisco to reunite with friends from Barlow’s high school. One of these “Barlovians”, as they called themselves, was Peter Sawyer. In 1977, they married on the banks of the Brule River in northern Wisconsin, where her family had a summer home. Marshall and Sawyer moved into a converted storefront in the Mission neighborhood. They moved in double on a motorbike that was parked in the living room.

Marshall found work through Leap Arts in Education, a nonprofit that sends art teachers to schools affected by budget cuts. This compelled her to return for her doctorate in arts education at the University of San Francisco.

“She really started to believe that art teachers were doing it wrong,” said her sister, who is also an art educator. “They were teaching students to hold a brush. Julia thought the ideas you were trying to express were what art was.

Marshall was hired as a lecturer at SF State in 1988. The following year, she and Sawyer divorced. Marshall and his colleague at the time, Leonard Turner, began a long dialogue about the changing world of arts education. This conversation lasted until Marshall’s promotion to assistant professor in 1998, until his marriage to Turner at San Francisco City Hall on May 3, 2006, and is still ongoing.

“The day before he died, we were still talking about things in arts education,” Turner said.

They settled into a house in Merced Heights, a 10-minute walk from campus. If Marshall wasn’t in her home studio, she was in her campus studio, next to her classroom.

“Julia was always available and never said ‘no,'” said Hochtritt who was inspired by her process that she ended up earning her doctorate and is now a professor of art education at the Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore “Everyone in arts education has a ‘Julia’ story of how she affected their lives in some way.”

In 2014, Marshall retired as a full professor and joined the faculty’s early retirement program, which allowed her to teach part-time for four more years, before graduating in 2018.

Marshall liked to say “teaching is my art form”, but so was painting and sculpture in wood and bronze. Her work has been exhibited in community centers and galleries, and a few years ago she began work on a career survey she hoped to stage at USF, where she earned her doctorate.

This investigation, 20 of his works, including the final triptych, will be exhibited in the Student Art Gallery of the Cesar Chavez Student Center in SF State. It opens June 4. A public memorial is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. that day.

Survivors include her husband, Leonard Turner of San Francisco; son Doug Berlin of Herndon, Va.; sisters Caroline Marshall of Washington, DC and Morley Knoll of Portland, Oregon; and his brother Paul Marshall of Wayzata, Minn.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @samwithingsf

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