Fond Farewell: Art Professor Emeritus Robert Herhusky
Professor Emeritus Robert Herhusky, who taught art for 29 years, passed away on May 3. He was 66.
Born August 1, I956, in Chicago and the oldest of six boys, Herhusky eventually moved to Truckee, California, where his parents owned a hardware store. It was helping out at the store where he first developed a curiosity about how things worked.
After studying at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, Herhusky earned a business degree from Chico State in 1982 and a Master of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in 1985. He joined Chico State’s Art Department in 1990 and later served as its chair.
“Robert certainly was not a conventional professor; he was truly one of a kind. He had many unique and sometimes colorful turns of phrases such as ‘you’re not twirling your end of the log,’” said Art and Art History Department Chair Cameron Crawford. “He was very dedicated to our students and always showed up at their exhibitions to show them we care. He was a great example to other faculty about how to support students.”
Under Herhusky’s leadership, the glass lab, which was originally a 1200-square-foot metal shed adjacent to Taylor Hall, inspired two decades of artists. Many local and visiting guest artists stopped by to work or observe, including former Chico State President Manuel Esteban, who once blew glass for a living and occasionally did demonstrations at the studio. (Herhusky maintained a display of Esteban’s work).
In addition to becoming a mentor to countless glassblowing artists both within the program and throughout the community, Herhusky’s tenacity and persistence revived—and then later saved—the University’s glass lab. When Department Chair Vernon Patrick tasked him with reviving glassblowing curriculum in the early 1990s, he was able to do so by securing donations from local glass businesses, his own labor, and sheer will.
And when the new ARTS Building replaced Taylor Hall in 2016, Herhusky’s stubbornness and passion once again saved the lab from budget cuts. Today, the space is a fixture of the building and the creative expertise of students and faculty is regularly on display to those in the courtyard, which pleased Herhusky greatly.
“Teaching was his passion and his life,” said his daughter, Mia Herhusky Kemp. “He gave everything he had to Chico State and supported all students whether they were art majors or not. He is a big reason the glass program became what it is today.”
Beyond teaching, Herhusky was a member of the Chico Art Center and a respected artist with gifts for drawing, sculpting, woodwork, and glass.
Herhusky also had a passion for turning reclaimed wood into art. When a stage in the Performing Arts Center was dismantled some 20 years ago, he went over and retrieved all the Douglas fir floorboards for future projects. Kemp recalls family trips where her father would drive by a dilapidated building and remark on how beautiful and sturdy the wood was. She said he built his house in Cohasset from the ground up, and much of it was from refurbished wood.
Herhusky is survived by his daughter, Mia, five brothers and their wives, his 14 nieces and nephews, the students he mentored, and the art community he supported in Chico. Though no memorial services are planned at this time, Herhusky’s family and the Art and Art History Department are planning an exhibition of his work for later this year.
Memorial contributions in his name can be made to The Museum of Northern California Art or the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at Chico State.
The University flag will be lowered on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 in his honor.