Awarded to a longtime NATA member who has dedicated their career to advancing art education in Nebraska. The award is named in honor of Dr. Roscoe Shields, whose service to art education was widespread and impacted many art educators and field of art education profoundly.
Dr. Roscoe Shields has been a member of NATA since 1951 when he first began teaching. He was the first art teacher in Fairbury, Nebraska where he taught two classes of junior high art, one class of senior high art and one class at the junior college. Early political tensions of censorship challenged administrators and teachers to consider their beliefs and employment. Roscoe, a WWII veteran, made the decision to leave and was asked to fill a similar teaching position at Norfolk Public Schools.
A graduate of Northeast High School in Lincoln, Roscoe studied at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, the Art Center School in Los Angeles, and eventually Penn State University. His high school art teacher, Miriam McGrew, had become the art educator at the University, and encouraged him to teach even when he was preparing to be a commercial artist.
Because of his success teaching in Norfolk, Roscoe’s friend Phil Rueschhoff invited him to the University to teach art classes and workshops for teachers throughout the state with the University Extension Division. Roscoe described this experience as,
“The ‘Division’ was located in Architecture Hall. In the 1930’s Nellie Vance, a Lincoln doctors wife and a member of the Nebraska Art Association was involved in taking art, both original and reproductions to school and community audiences throughout the state. I suppose that was one of the first of many art involvement by the university. That‘s also when the Art Department and gallery were located in Morrill Hall. Dwight Kirsch, Art Department Chair, also helped with the program well before my arrival. The program took art in many forms to children and adults throughout Nebraska… We went for example to Butte, Nebraska. The children and adults would parade by the displayed work. We talked about it and returned to Lincoln all in the span of several days. This was original works from the University galleries. One of our first 30 day loans was with Larry Peterson, at the North Platte High School.” (excerpt from Roscoe interview, Marvin Spomer,1994)
Nebraska ETV was one of the early public television stations in the country and the University correspondence study program joined Roscoe in connecting art instruction for rural schools with television as a medium in 1955-56. Roscoe delivered lessons in black and white then the student work was sent to campus for critique by his colleague Cynthia Tanderup.
Roscoe Shield’s has been a K-16 art teacher in traditional classrooms, from his car as he traveled across the state, and through the ground breaking technology of television. . He promoted art programs through exhibits in public setting in businesses, and organized a letter writing campaign to create an art position at the Nebraska Department of Education.
He organized NATA teachers to discuss the quality of art work, art budgets, art programs being cut and the design of the 1968 Art guide for K-6 classrooms. The guides were distributed from the Nebraska Department of Education and then through the NATA. Individuals funded the NATA second printing, Roscoe and friends sold them and then the profit was presented to NATA. This may have been the first time NATA had a $300.00 savings account for emergencies and special projects.
Even though, Roscoe had always worked in NATA, it was this act that encouraged the NATA Executive Committee to begin the Roscoe Shields Service Award in 1976.
Roscoe retired in 1994 after 40 years of service to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since 1994, Roscoe and Leona have traveled extensively. He continues to stay in touch with his many students and colleagues whose lives he has touched. He is a historian and treasure to his students, Nebraska, Art Education, and NATA.
In a 1994 interview conducted by Marvin Spomer, Roscoe’s advice and closing remarks were: “Try to get as many teachers involved in NATA as possible. The way we communicate is very important. I’m sure when the Internet system is widely used and in place, this technology will help communication and bring people together…I think colleges need to make involvement in NATA a high priority. Helping them to participate in conferences. I know the involvement on a weekend is difficult. I didn’t question a Saturday/Sunday meeting format during my time but I think people today don’t look at it in the same way. Every organization has this same problem and finding an answer is not easy. NAEA and NATA joint memberships keeps you informed as well.” Smiling he stated that in retirement, “I want to look at the world around me: Do some drawing and painting, and communicating. … I want to pass something on…. It’s hard to stop working. There is a comfort in work. The scary thing is people can be forgotten.”
In 2014, NATA and the Roscoe Shield Service Award has secured that Roscoe Shield and his work will not be forgotten. Thank You Roscoe!
Dr. Shields passed away in December 23, 2022 at the age of 96 years old.