Janet Carson was an icon in the Chippewa Valley art scene, from teaching it to promoting the works of others, friends and colleagues say.
“She was just an amazing supporter of the local art scene,” said Rose Dolan-Neill, visual and literary arts manager at the Pablo Center at the Confluence. “She taught so many people, both professionals and amateurs. She didn’t care who was making art, as long as it was good.”
Carson, 93, died Nov. 21. She was a former UW-Eau Claire professor in the Art and Design Department, and was a nationally acclaimed artist.
In 2008, the Eau Claire Regional Art Center was undergoing renovations. Carson, who was known for her water colors and silk screens, stepped forward to help raise money.
“When we decided to remodel the gallery, she offered up her at-home collection,” Dolan-Neill said. “It was basically a fire sale of her home collection. (The sale) was a significant dollar amount. She handed over her art, and the proceeds all went toward the renovations.”
Two years later, the Eau Claire Regional Art Center honored her by renaming the space the “Janet Carson Gallery.” It had that name from 2010 until the art center closed in fall 2018.
“She was very proud to have the gallery named after her,” Dolan-Neill said. “She was just a really powerful, wonderful person.”
Even though the art center is closed, five of Carson’s water color paintings are still on display at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.
Carson earned her master’s of arts degree from Columbia Teachers College, and a master of fine arts degree in 1963 from Michigan State. She joined the UW-Eau Claire faculty in 1965 and retired in 1991.
Retired professor Andy Shafer worked alongside her for several decades at the university.
“She was very well respected as a teacher,” Shafer said. “She was very valuable to the department, because she knew how to do screen printing. Her works consist of the screen printings and water color paintings.”
Carson also created the Beaver Creek Water Color Society workshop, serving as teacher and organizer, Shafer said.
“Her ideas were a marriage of contemporary ideas and a strong understanding of traditional water color techniques,” Shafer said. “Most of her works were landscapes. Everyone in the department loved her water colors.”
Shafer described her as outgoing and “spunky.”
“She was very funny; she had a great sense of humor and enjoyed things,” Shafer said. “She was full of life and light.”
Karen Horan had Carson for a teacher at UW-Eau Claire, and she later joined Carson as a faculty member.
“She was a touchstone for me the rest of my life,” Horan said. “Janet was beloved by all her students.”
Horan said Carson was given a statewide art educator award last year, saying it “culminates her whole career.” Horan said Carson left a legacy in her teachings.
“Janet influenced generations of art teachers, myself included, not only throughout the state of Wisconsin but throughout the United States,” Horan said.
Mary Sauter was an art teacher at multiple Eau Claire elementary schools, and she learned from Carson.
“She just loved everything about art,” Sauter said. “She didn’t want to be in the spotlight, but she wanted to be in the action. She wanted to be part of the art scene in Eau Claire, and art education in the area.”
Janice Roberts taught art at Eau Claire North for 30 years. She recalled the valuable lessons she learned from taking Carson’s classes in the early 1980s.
“She had an energy and honesty and vigor about her that was very contagious,” Roberts said. “She wanted us to be good ambassadors for art.”
Roberts said she visited Carson just a few weeks ago at her home.
“She had an art table set up, so she could still work,” Roberts said. “She was working on art to the very end.”