Mr. Hickman’s Story as an Artist In Residence

Photo courtesy of Mrs. Beal

Photo courtesy of Mrs. Beal

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Legends and Lore, Transformation/Metamorphosis, “James and the Giant Peach,” Rube Goldberg, and Lost Wax Investment Casting Bronze Sculpture: These are just a handful of projects and seminars that Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance (KM Perform) Artist-in-Residence Mr. John Hickman has been involved with this school year. Every year, KM Perform invites one local artist to be the Artist-in-Residence, someone who helps students develop their artistic abilities all year long. Mr. Hickman has done just that, and has left a lasting impression on all of the students who had the privilege to work alongside him.

Mr. Hickman’s roots in KM Perform have been growing ever since he was first invited to teach a lost wax bronze casting seminar in 2015. With the help of writing focus mentor Mrs. Beal and (now former) art teacher Mrs. Belot, he has run that seminar every year since (with the exception of 2016). However, bronze casting is not Mr. Hickman’s only passion; he enjoys “working in sculpture (meaning bronze, stainless steel, and steel), [doing] ceramics, [or even] . . . making pen & ink drawings—frequently cutting [his] own quills.” When he’s not creating art, Mr. Hickman can be found reading books, gardening, or cooking.

Before his days in KM Perform, Mr. Hickman “worked in a high tech stainless foundry in California, and spent nine years as an ‘Academic Nomad’ teaching in universities from Texas to Minnesota to Utah.” He also earned a BFA from the University of Utah as well as an MA and MFA from the University of California, Berkeley. After moving to Wisconsin, Mr. Hickman taught 3D Design, Ceramics, Drawing, Sculpture, and Intro to Art at UW-Waukesha, started a sculpture studio in Milwaukee, and then began his 20-year-long career as an industrial welder.

Mr. Hickman was originally drawn to teaching inKM Perform because he was “intrigued and fascinated by the enterprise of teaching high school students . . . ancient art [forms].” No other high school in the area (or maybe anywhere) teaches students ancient art techniques quite like Mr. Hickman, especially not bronze casting. Out of his desire to share his passion with others, Mr. Hickman “gladly accepted” KM Perform director Mr. Erickson’s request to become this year’s Artist-in-Residence.

Whether or not students have realized it, Mr. Hickman played major roles in many of the school’s biggest productions. He taught students how to make masks for the Old World Wisconsin production of Legends and Lore, how to make masks and puppets for the “outstanding production” of “James and the Giant Peach,” and assisted art focus mentor Mr. Langenecker with the construction of Rube Goldberg machines. He has also made many more appearances in other seminars, such as the Transformation/Metamorphosis seminar. Not to mention, he conducted “the best iteration” of the Lost Wax Investment Casting Bronze Sculpture to date. He ended the year helping students finish up their bronze sculptures from the aforementioned bronze casting seminar, and was involved in the brainstorming process for the fall 2019 OWW Legends and Lore festival.

After working as an artist for so many years, Mr. Hickman was glad to give back to his community and inspire young artists to explore and grow their abilities. He has played important roles in a variety of projects and productions this year, and has made countless contributions to the KM Perform art community; the wisdom this lifelong artist has brought to the school will surely be passed down to future students. “When I retired in 2016, I had no idea [that] retirement would be more rewarding and stimulating than my previous works!” said Mr. Hickman. Although there will be a new Artist-in-Residence next school year, Mr. Hickman will not just disappear. In fact, he has already started to plan out projects for the next school year, and he is excited to work with students to bring the ideas to life!

Clara Wayne’s bronse-cast ballet slipper. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Beal.