Art faculty and alum grieves passing of Robert Schwieger

Robert Schwieger with his wife, LaDonna Schwieger (above).

 

People who knew him say nothing but good things about him. They talk about how he was a positive person, and a good guy whose approach to life was subtle but impactful. He emphasized believing in the artist behind the work. 

This is the legacy of C. Robert “Bob” Schwieger, Nebraska-native artist. Schwieger was an established artist and was a professor of art at Missouri Southern. 

He was born Dec. 5, 1936, and died Oct. 23, 2019, at the age of 86.

While he taught at Southern, he left a positive impact on his students. 

“He was very open and had passion,” said Scott Murray, adjunct professor and Southern alum. 

“He was very open to concepts. Schwieger was very indirect with his approach [to art]. I appreciated his way of constructing assemblage work,” said Murray. 

Schwieger was a printmaker, but used the medium unconventionally.

While traditionally, printmaking is a 2-dimensional medium, Schwieger took it a step further. 

He used it as a mixed discipline, saving and utilizing any materials he could.

According to Murray, Schwieger had a statement: “Art is life. Life is art. It’s hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction.” 

Murray said that this made a big difference to him. It was one of the biggest things that made an impact on him.

 “It’s very difficult, I think, a lot of times for people to define what is art, where [Robert] was able to see art in everything,” said Murray. 

Along with impacting students, Schwieger’s work reached beyond Southern.

As an undergraduate student, Burt Bucher recognized Schwieger’s works in textbooks. 

“The printmaking shop he taught here at Missouri Southern was in a textbook that I remember reading as an undergraduate student,” said Bucher, an associate professor of art. “It was neat coming here and knowing there was a tradition at some point.”

Schwieger was known past regional locations. While he was a Nebraska native and worked at Missouri Southern, he was also recognized nationally, reaching even Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. 

“I wasn’t even at one of the bigger universities yet,” said Bucher. “So for information to go from region to region means he was having a pretty significant impact in the field of printmaking.

“He was kind of a multidisciplinary artist. He used printmaking in a way that was not traditional, but it was rooted in tradition.”

Schwieger was active in the art world even after retirement. He exhibited many places, including Illinois, Montana, and North Dakota.

“[His death] is a big loss for the art world,” said Murray. “He was active up until the day he passed, sharing his work and ideas with people.”

Since Schwieger was known for being a kind and open professor, his classes always filled up first when it was time to register for classes, according to Joan Kearney, former art department administrative assistant. 

“He was the most gentle man I ever met,” said Kearney. “He was soft-spoken, he never got mad. He was extremely encouraging to everybody.”

Murray said that Schwieger always emphasized the importance of the artist and believed in their ability. 

“It made me and my story feel important, like it needed to be shared,” said Murray. 

That traveled with him even into his graduate studies, bringing up his interaction with people and seeing the common good in most. 

An example of his kindness and belief in others is shown in the note he left on his door when he retired from Southern. The note says, “ … May all the little creatures of the earth find solace today and forever … Be kind to one another.”

Schwieger was the type of person who remembered things, such as peoples’ birthdays.

Even 19 years after, Schwieger thinks of other people. 

After he left Southern in 2000, he taught at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska, then retired and pursued art full-time. He and his wife LaDonna moved to Illinois after that. 

But even after retirement and moving to a different state, in spring 2019, Schwieger kept in touch with Kearney. 

He thought of her as she announced her retirement, and sent her a gold-leaf print as a retirement gift. 

“I told [LaDonna] how precious this was to me now and how nice it was to have been a small part of his life,” Kearney said. 

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