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Former professor colors the walls of ASU Gammage with a vibrant exhibition

Barbara Colby, a retired philosophy professor, brings her watercolor and pencil works to campus

Barbara Colby and her husband, Arthur, on June 16, 2016.

Barbara Colby and her husband, Arthur, on June 16, 2016.

A retired ASU professor of philosophy has been showcasing her art in the lobby of ASU Gammage throughout the month of October. 

Aside from teaching, Barbara Colby also held the position of assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences during her time at ASU. She dedicated nearly 40 years of her life to educating Sun Devil students but retired in 2013, which has prompted her to focus more on her art.

Colby began creating art as a young child during elementary school but said she officially started about 25-years-ago. However, much of her time was consumed with her career and family priorities.

“I started taking some art classes,” Colby said. “But then, between my work obligations and teaching obligations and my family, I just didn't have much time to do anything with it. So I really didn't start doing anything until I retired.”

Colby was first approached with the opportunity to have her art shown at ASU Gammage by Executive Director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack after she saw some of Colby's other work. This eventually led to Colby submitting her work to a Gammage committee that approves which artists and creations will be featured at the venue.

“Gammage does have people come in and bring their art, and they have a committee that votes on it,” Colby said. “So various people are asked to submit their work, and the committee makes a judgment on who is going to be shown and who isn’t.”

Most of Colby’s art that is currently featured in the exhibit are watercolor and pencil works.

She said her inspiration for her watercolor pieces stemmed from her newfound time after retirement. Colby also said she was motivated to create the art for this exhibit for herself, not for the sole reason of having others view it.

“I mean I didn't sit down to do something that would hang somewhere,” she said. “I just was doing things, really for myself.”

One of her biggest supporters is her husband, Arthur Colby, who also retired from ASU as a professor of English literature in 1998. He said seeing his wife successfully have her art showcased in a venue like ASU Gammage has made him very proud. When describing his wife’s art exhibition, he mentioned how art must be experienced in order to really grasp its artistic value.

“That is it, a combination of drawing and watercolor, but that’s inadequate, as with any attempt to describe art," he said. "Art has to be experienced — visual art as well as literary art."

ASU Gammage Public Relations Manager Kari Amarosso said Gammage is all about connecting artists to the community.

“Every season, ASU Gammage brings 400,000 to almost a half a million patrons to the venue to see more than just the shows you see on stage,” Amarosso said. “We are also a thriving arts organization that supports our community. The exposure that these artists receive is significant.”

Viewing hours for the exhibit are held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays or by appointment. The exhibit will run until Nov. 1.

Reach the reporter at or follow @marcellabaietto on Twitter.

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