Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter with a bird painting. Animals are a common theme in her work, such as a companion piece with rabbits which appear to be flying, though she said they are not a series. "I just like the subject of animals."

Archived Story

Dogwood gallery exhibiting Margaret Hunter paintings

Published 3:36pm Thursday, April 11, 2013

At 91, there’s still much to learn about retired art teacher Margaret Hunter.

Though she seems to have spent her entire career teaching for Dowagiac Union Schools, she actually taught in Saginaw “for a year or two” after graduating with the Class of 1939 and from Michigan State.

The woman who considered teaching history wrote and illustrated a children’s book, “The Tale of Molly Mutt.”

Mostly the biggest mystery about the youngest of six Hunter children from Wayne Township is her own artwork in a variety of media. Hanging behind her chair is a piece of wood studded with pieces of copper she fired with color.

Miss Hunter has lived her entire life on the centennial farm on Glenwood Road which has been in her family for more than 150 years.

Her brother, George, 20 years older, operated a nursery. Her late nephew, James, taught science at Union High.

“I love this area,” she said Wednesday, “but I guess it’s queer for someone to live in the same place all the time,” though travel took her as far afield as Alaska and Brazil for a week with teachers — “You people call it a union.”

Of Alaska, she said, “It’s a fascinating place. I’m sorry they let people live there. They’ll ruin it.”

“I think art was fairly new at Michigan State” when she was a student. “They may have had it five years. I think they were all worried one would never get a job teaching art. I fooled them! I never go to town but somebody comes up and insists I was their art teacher. I started with all the elementary schools grades 1-6,” then later to Central Junior High and the high school. “That was two years and they built Pat Ham, which made it too big for one person. The superintendent asked me if I wanted to do grades or junior high. I always liked junior high kids. They’re real peppy. If you throw out an idea, they’re right after it.”

She retired at 65 after 30 years in Dowagiac classrooms.

The farmhouse she shares with her dog doubles as an art museum, filled with her acrylic paintings, papier mache creatures, abstracts, wood carvings and ceramics.

“I hope it works out,” she said of her exhibit during Dogwood Fine Arts Festival. “I was kind of amazed. Cyndy Wardlaw (of the Visual Arts Committee, who helped comb through her paintings) is all excited. She and Thelda Mathews came and I let them take whatever they wanted. They seemed to want more abstract things than anything realistic, like the big painting of the Grand Canyon. They span 30 years. I still paint when I can find the time, but I’m so slow now, I don’t get much done. But I’d like to paint constantly.”

“I never knew my grandparents, but my mother said my grandmother could draw anything and was very good, but in those days they didn’t do anything with art at all. I had some art classes in high school. We were on the third floor of Central, junior high was on the second and elementary grades were on first floor. We had a big class.”

Hunter’s farm raised Jersey cattle and carried cream to the creamery in Dowagiac.

“When the war came on, people in New York were crazy to buy those cattle,” she said. “Then he went into Hereford cattle and sheep. There were two girls,” including an older sister. “I didn’t have a role in the farm. I had to ‘be a lady.’ I couldn’t do anything but cook.”

Hunter remains active in Capt. Samuel Felt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Almost 50 years ago she helped pass Southwestern Michigan College into existence with a poster contest.

“I had the high school kids make posters,” she recalled. “One, so they would realize what was happening. Two, people who wanted the college could use the posters. It probably helped get it passed.”

Surprisingly, given relatively few artists in Dowagiac, she and Alice Lewis didn’t know each other, though, “I might have been introduced to her once.”

“Even if the kid is really good,” she said, “so many parents don’t want them to go into art because they’re afraid they’re going to starve. Nowadays, the field is wide open for them. Michigan State has a long list of specialties — design, teaching, museum work, on and on.”

Art from the Start

Margaret E. Hunter

Retrospective gallery show

Dogwood Fine Arts Festival HQ

Huntington Bank Building,

west entrance,

207 Pennsylvania Ave.

Thursday, May 2

5-7 p.m. reception

Displayed through June

Special festival hours:

May 3-17, Monday-Friday

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dowagiac Daily News

 

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