A LIFE­TIME OF ART

Terry Knight is step­ping away from his stu­dio, which he opened af­ter 30 years in ed­u­ca­tion, but the legacy he has wo­ven with stu­dents will last for­ever.

Calhoun Times - - Front Page - By Liz Crumbly Com­mu­nity Cor­re­spon­dent

The funny thing about Terry Knight, the man so many Gor­don Coun­tians rec­og­nize as an in­sti­tu­tion in art ed­u­ca­tion, is that he never re­ally in­tended to teach. But when Knight tells his story, it’s clear that his as­ser­tion that God had other plans for him must be true.

Knight spent 30 years in the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem bring­ing a cre­ative out­let to young peo­ple as he taught them to sculpt, paint and sketch. He re­tired from the schools a few years ago but con­tin­ued to wel­come adults and chil­dren for classes at his Terry Knight Stu­dios, which he opened 18 years ago just a stone’s throw from the Har­ris Art Cen­ter on Wall Street in down­town Cal­houn. Now, he’s re­tir­ing from life at the stu­dio, but he’ll stay true to his artis­tic roots with plans to set up a booth at art fes­ti­vals in the tri-state area from spring to fall where he’ll mar­ket his own art pieces.

“I do ev­ery­thing from non-rep­re­sen­ta­tional to ex­pres­sion­ism, im­pres­sion­ism and re­al­ism all the way to pho­to­re­al­ism,” he says.

The walls of the stu­dio are lined with Knight’s ex­am­ples of these styles.

‘I’m go­ing to run this place’

Knight grad­u­ated from Berry Col­lege in 1976 with a ma­jor in art and a mi­nor in ed­u­ca­tion. This com­bi­na­tion seems ripe for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the teach­ing ca­reer he even­tu­ally chose, but he didn’t go that di­rec­tion at first. In­stead, he went to work for Ge­or­gia Power af­ter grad­u­a­tion. When he in­ter­viewed at a steam plant with the com­pany, he re­mem­bers say­ing, “I’m go­ing to run this place one day.”

He quickly found suc­cess in that line work, and he did end up run­ning the plant on Lake Sin­clair as a boiler tur­bine op­er­a­tor. But he wasn’t con­tent.

“It was kind of like party time and hav­ing fun, and I made so much money I didn’t know what to do with it, but I wasn’t happy with it,” he re­calls. “Some­times I just get teary-eyed go­ing into work.”

He even­tu­ally switched ca­reer paths and went to work at Clark Memo­ri­als back in his home­town of Ma­con as a stone carver. One of his men­tors there was from Italy, and it was there that he learned to sculpt mar­ble and gran­ite. It was a pro­fes­sion he was al­ready fa­mil­iar with, as his fam­ily also owned a stone me­mo­rial busi­ness.

Knight moved to Rome in 1969 with his fa­ther, Wil­liam “Bill” Harley Knight Jr., so the el­der Knight could take over his own fa­ther’s busi­ness, Knight’s Memo­ri­als, which sat on Cal­houn Road, the thor­ough­fare lo­cals know as “Old High­way 53,” in Rome.

Although he grew up south of At­lanta, Terry has a her­itage here. His fa­ther was born in Cal­houn, but worked at Robins Air Force Base be­fore go­ing into the mon­u­ment busi­ness. Terry’s mother, Ber­tis “Bert” Knight, worked as a loan of­fi­cer and pitched in at the mon­u­ment com­pany some­times. Terry spent his early years in Ma­con, and he started his 10th-grade year at Model High School when his fam­ily moved back to this area.

He worked at Knight’s Memo­ri­als un­til 1984, and that’s when he felt a dis­tinct call to teach. He re­mem­bers hav­ing the re­al­iza­tion that he would once again be switch­ing pro­fes­sions in his home at the time in Plainville.

A call to teach

“I just went in the bath­room, and I just knelt down and — it was kind of like my war room or some­thing — and I went in there, and I just prayed, and I just started cry­ing, and I just started heav­ing,” he says. “And then all of a sud­den, God spoke to me. He said, ‘I want you to teach.’ And I felt like Noah go­ing, ‘You want me to do what?’ I didn’t even re­mem­ber the ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses I took.”

“A cus­tomer came into the mon­u­ment shop the next day and said, ‘You know, they’re build­ing a brand-new high school next to Ash­worth Mid­dle School.’”

Terry felt like those words were a con­fir­ma­tion from God that he should be­gin teach­ing art.

“Ding! That’s what it was,” he says. “In ’85, when Gor­don Cen­tral opened brand new, I started there.”

He stayed there for 20 years, only feel­ing the urge to leave af­ter he helped de­sign the art depart­ment at Sonoraville High School when it was un­der con­struc­tion.

“I had no in­ten­tions of leav­ing Gor­don Cen­tral,” he says. “I just de­signed (the Sonoraville stu­dio).”

But when he at­tended his daugh­ter’s ninth-grade ori­en­ta­tion at the new school, they checked out the art room with its huge kiln and ded­i­cated stor­age rooms.

“I went into that room, and when I saw how it was set up … I went straight back to (then—prin­ci­pal) Lee Se­gars, and I talked to him … I told him I wanted to work for him,” Terry says. “He said, ‘Are you se­ri­ous?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he stuck his hand out. And so, that was it.”

Terry’s twofold pas­sion for art and teach­ing led him down var­ied paths. He ob­tained master’s de­grees in tech­nol­ogy and later lead­er­ship from Ken­ne­saw State Univer­sity with the in­tent of di­ver­si­fy­ing his teach­ing skills and of even­tu­ally be­com­ing a school prin­ci­pal, although he never went the ad­min­is­tra­tive route. He took other col­lege classes just for the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I just like to stay cur­rent with what’s go­ing on,” he says.

‘Mr. Knight, I’m not

into time’

In con­ver­sa­tion, his zeal for teach­ing is clear, and he has a pol­ished col­lec­tion of sto­ries, most of them from his days at the high schools. He made sure stu­dents were well-versed in a range of art tech­niques, from pho­to­re­al­is­tic self-por­trai­ture to im­pres­sion­is­tic land­scapes, and he al­ways let them know he cared for them as in­di­vid­u­als.

“You can’t teach art if you’re just stuck in one thing,” he says. “This is how I taught: my kids came into my class­room — the first thing I did was I let them know I loved ev­ery one of them. … I said, ‘You’re in here be­cause you want to be in here.’”

He rarely had to deal with dis­ci­pline prob­lems, and he fos­tered a cre­ative at­mos­phere in which stu­dents were al­lowed to re­lax with snacks and rock mu­sic while they worked.

“I re­ally never had to shoot my ‘big guns,’ so to speak — scream­ing at my kids — no. … They sat with who­ever they wanted to,” he says. Things ran that way “as long as they worked, and as long as they turned their work in on dead­line.”

In a nod to the cre­ative process of visual art, he was will­ing to be flex­i­ble with stu­dents’ work­flow pref­er­ences, though. One gifted stu­dent had trou­ble turn­ing his work in on time, and Knight ap­proached him about it.

“You’ve got to get your stuff turned in on time,” he re­calls say­ing. The stu­dent had a unique re­sponse. “He said, ‘Mr. Knight, I’m not into time.’”

Terry still gets a gen­uine chuckle out of that story.

“I let him take as long as he wanted on any­thing be­cause of that,” he says. “I loved it. I laughed.”

He’s had for­mer stu­dents go on to work at places like Dis­ney and the art de­part­ments in lo­cal car­pet com­pa­nies. Quite a few of them have grad­u­ated from the Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign. If he knew they in­tended to work in the art in­dus­try, he saved pho­tos of their work to discs and sent a port­fo­lio with them when they grad­u­ated.

The stu­dio

He stayed at Sonoraville for 10 years un­til his re­tire­ment from the pub­lic school sys­tem, at which point, he went full time with the stu­dio down­town. So many lo­cals know him from the classes he’s taught for chil­dren and adults, along with his wildly pop­u­lar sum­mer art camp that hosted close to 100 chil­dren last year.

“So many of my kids, I’ve had from the time that they were 7 years old all the way through high school with me which was awe­some,” he says. “A lot of those kids are now work­ing pro­fes­sion­ally as artists.”

He’s lived in Cal­houn 30 years now. He’s mar­ried to Kim Knight, a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor. A like­ness of her as an an­gel hangs in the stu­dio.

“I have the best wife in the world. … She was the best thing that ever hap­pened to me. … I al­ways say she’s the smartest per­son I’ve ever met — and pretty.” he says.

The two stay busy with their var­i­ous projects, and there seem to be no plans to slow down any­time soon. Piv­ot­ing away from the stu­dio sim­ply seems to be the next step in Terry’s art ca­reer.

“We’re busier now than we ever were when we were work­ing (as ed­u­ca­tors),” he says.

Although he’s sell­ing the busi­ness, Terry will still be there at times. Lo­cal artist Jen­nifer Tins­ley, who’s been teach­ing chil­dren’s classes at the stu­dio for sev­eral months, will take over own­er­ship on Tues­day, and she’s count­ing on him to show up for camp this sum­mer, just as he has for the past 16 years.

/ Liz Crumbly

Terry Knight, owner of the epony­mous Terry Knight Stu­dios in down­town Cal­houn, will hand over the keys to new owner Jen­nifer Tins­ley on Tues­day. Tins­ley plans to call the stu­dio Art by Jen­nyPenny.

/ Liz Crumbly

Terry Knight’s work hangs in the stu­dio he’s owned for the past 18 years.

/ Liz Crumbly

Terry Knight still has a col­lec­tion of pages from the Sonoraville High year­book that fea­ture his stu­dents’ work. He took care of the lay­out dur­ing his time teach­ing there.

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