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Friday, March 30, 2012

John Tuska was celebrated professor, artist;
his son is dedicated to keeping legacy alive

by Julie Wilson
KyForward Correspondent

 

Lexington is more than 5,000 miles from Tirana, the capital city of Albania, yet one of The Tuska House’s most avid fans is from this European country along the Adriatic Sea. Seth Tuska, the son and director of The Tuska House – an educational sanctuary of works by famed artist John Tuska – has stretched his arms far and wide to raise awareness of his father’s legacy … even if that means translating his native English to Tosk Albanian (the main dialect of the country) in order to communicate.

 

“Thank goodness for Google Translate,” Seth said in jest. But in all honestly, education is at the central core of his father’s artistic bequest.

 

Though oddly enough, many Lexingtonians don’t even realize this extensive art collection from one of the University of Kentucky’s most celebrated art professors lies just minutes from campus. The Tuska House is an homage to the late John Tuska, who retired from UK in 1993 after 30 years of teaching.

 

“Teachers move life forward,” said Seth. “Students who had him for class loved him, loved watching him work, and he continues to inspire.”

 

So much so that a group of art students from Woodford County High School came to The Tuska House last week and used Tuska’s works on display as a means to expand their own artistic nature. With the bronze “Handstand” that Tuska created in the late ‘60s you’ll see today’s budding artists using it as inspiration for their own creative expression.

 

“The education just keeps coming,” said Seth.

 
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John Tuska was not a native Kentuckian, yet he embraced his adopted state for its tranquility and freedom to work in peace. Mind you, Tuska wasn’t a recluse – you could find him in his studio on campus at any hour of the day – he just wasn’t in the art field for the notoriety. His love of learning led him to the Bluegrass state.

 

After graduating with his MFA from Alfred University in western New York in 1960, John Tuska wanted to find a place where the commercialization of art wasn’t the driving force for creation. Instead, he simply wanted to use his hands in any medium, at any time, without the pressures of “being discovered.” So he packed up his young family and moved to Kentucky.

 

Tuska’s work has been in shows around the world, including Paris and Kiev, yet his muse, his life force remained in the classroom. And it is this allegiance to Kentucky that inspired Seth to create The Tuska House, Lexington’s newest historic house museum. “It’s not about the art,” said Seth, “it’s about what art will do for the community.”

 

People from such countries as Italy and France have graced the doorway of The Tuska House, allowing Seth and this unique venue – which he created with this father’s blessing before he passed away in 1998 – to serve as a docent to Kentucky’s arts, education, tourism, even economic development. All of this on the corner of Old Park and Central avenues.

 

One of Tuska’s most famous sayings, really his life’s mantra, was Non Basta Una Vita – “One life is not enough.” For Seth, a trained engineer who left his career to shed light on his father’s influential work, has a new mission in life.

 

“In this life, I’m the messenger,” he said. “The Tuska House is my last engineering project. I will structure it and build it for the future.”

 

Kentucky’s artistic legacy is eternal thanks to the foundation built by artists like John Tuska.

 

Visit TuskaStudio.com to learn more about one of Kentucky’s most prolific artists and to visit The Tuska House.

 

Award-winning journalist Julia L. Wilson is owner and publisher behind Story. With nearly two decades in journalism, Julie is set to launch Story in the summer of 2012 to tell the in-depth stories of the people and ideas that shape the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Julie became an expert on the international, luxury travel market while serving as the executive editor of Pulse, the bi-monthly magazine of the International SPA Association; and Courier, the monthly publication for the National Tour Association. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Julie’s work has been featured in Footwear News, Family Safety & Health, HOW magazine, The Lexington Herald-Leader and the parenting blog YummyMummyClub.ca.

 

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