Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:59 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Community remembers Paula Dickey for her talent, teaching and friendship

Staff Writer


Homer News file photo by Carey R

Paula Dickey paints on the Home Spit during a watercolor class for the Kachemak Bay Watercolor Society in June 2000.

Homer and Alaska's art community this week remembered one of the town's premier watercolor artists for her talent, teaching and friendship. Paula Schildhauer Dickey, 74, died Aug. 12, 2011, after an 11-year struggle with ovarian cancer. Her students and fellow artists will honor her memory with a show of work inspired by her teaching and guidance. An opening is Sept. 16 at Homer Art & Frame.

"The whole place is going to be covered with student work, all of it in one way touched by Paula," said Lynda Reed, owner of the art store and a longtime friend of Dickey.

"Paula Dickey was an artists' artist," said Charlotte Fox, executive director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts. "While she was prolific in her work as an artist, she made a significant contribution through her support of other artists, both her peers and her students. We will always be grateful for her work, as an artist and as an advocate. The world needs many more of both."

Like many local artists, Reed met Dickey through her art, took a watercolor class from her and became friends.

Artist Jo Going said after moving to Homer in 2004 she saw a watercolor by Dickey at the Pratt Museum.

"I looked at that painting and said, 'That person is a real painter,'" Going said.

The next day Going taught a dance class at the Bay Club.

"Who shows up? You guessed it: Paula Dickey," she said. "That's how our friendship began."

Dickey's art has been shown in single-artist and group shows at almost every gallery in town and in Alaska and the Lower 48. A leader in the Kachemak Bay Watercolor Society, she helped organize its annual Paint Ins and frequently directed its monthly artist get-togethers. Dickey also taught annual workshops at Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast. With her husband Brad, she also did 20 1-percent for art commissions throughout the state and in the Lower 48. Dickey taught at Alaska Pacific University for 8 1/2 years and at the Kachemak Bay Campus after moving to Homer in 1992.

"How she got so much accomplished, I don't know," Reed said. "It's unbelievable how much she did, yet she still kept up with her friends."

"If you were a friend of Paula's, you were a friend for life," Going said. "If in any way you extended yourself to Paula, that was signed, sealed and delivered. You were her friend for life."

Dickey was born in New Holstein, Wis., in 1937, graduated from Laurence University in Appleton, Wis., and met her husband Brad in Worthington, Wis. The Dickeys moved to Alaska in 1971.

Bunnell Street Arts Center director Asia Freeman remembers Dickey as giving her advice as a new mother running a community arts center — something Dickey did with her son Devon when they lived in rural Wisconsin. Dickey told Freeman she remembered running the center with Devon in a playpen.

"I really appreciated her advice and counsel over the years," Freeman said. "I really felt that she was direct, sincere and wise and generous."

After being diagnosed with cancer, Dickey continued in her work. An energy healer, Going also got to know Dickey in helping her heal as she faced cancer's challenges.

"Paula wasn't 'poor me,'" Going said. "Her favorite expression was 'Onward!,' with an exclamation point. ... That's pretty much her attitude. She didn't want people feeling sorry for her. She didn't want people identifying her with having cancer."

Dickey had another passion: dance.

"She loved to dance," Going said. "It was one of the joys of her life. She had so much fun. Even when she wasn't feeling well, she'd come to my class."

As a teacher, Dickey inspired new and established artists.

"She was especially open to emerging artists, people who need a little oomph," Going said. "She was there to serve that population, and she did that famously."

"She treated everyone with respect," Reed said. "She made everyone fell welcome. She just gave to everyone."

"Her intelligence, her talent, her generosity, her acceptance of all people," Reed added. "She loved her family, she loved her friends, she loved this world. Almost above all, she loved art."

Dickey was preceded in death by her son, Devon. She is survived by her husband, Brad. In lieu of any celebration of life, there will be two celebrations of her art with a show of her recent paintings, completed in July. An opening for her show is 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the ConocoPhillips Gallery, Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage. A second solo show opens with a reception 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at Picture Alaska Art Gallery in Homer.