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Wayne Taylor remembered for his art … and his heart

Photo: Contributed photo

Wayne Taylor is pictured in a familiar pose -- behind his easel and with brush in hand.

By Madison Wray, Staff Writer

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When students pass through the Fairmont Music Department, many notice the realistic black-and-white paintings on the walls, but do they know the artist behind the paintings? They might notice the name scrawled at the bottom of each one: Wayne Taylor.

Taylor died Nov. 11, 2011, at the age of 61 after battling colon cancer. Many remember him for his work at Fairmont, but those closest to him also remember his personality behind his art.

“Wayne Taylor is one of the most gentlemanly individuals I’ve known; he could bring out the best in anybody,” said Thom Meyer, a former Fairmont art photo teacher and longtime friend of Taylor.

Meyer knew Taylor for quite some time during college, even though they attended different universities. They taught together at Van Buren Middle School and developed a friendship. Meyer describes Taylor as “a slow-walking, slow-talking country boy, but a genuinely nice person.” With his artwork, Taylor painted realistic portraiture, which is used with classic poses and detailed lighting. He found this to be the most gratifying style to use, according to Meyer.

Taylor made many of his paintings specifically for Fairmont High School, including the black-and-white paintings of famous artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Salvador Dali. For several years, his paintings illustrating the 12 Character Words of the Month also hung in Fairmont’s halls. (Several are still in the Main Office.) He also painted the Mona Lisa on the wall by the art rooms and had his art students paint the background back in 1997.

When teaching at Van Buren Middle School, Meyer noticed how Taylor would talk to his students like he would any other adult, and he connected with them by pulling out skills and talents that they may have never recognized. He could do this by his comforting approach and his knowledge of art. He believed in his students, which enabled them to perform better than they ever thought.

Meyer saw this as the years passed and they became even closer friends. Taylor started teaching at Fairmont in 1989 and worked there for 17 years as both the Art Coordinator and a part-time art teacher until retiring in 2006.

“He knew his craft, his subject, its history, and from that he had this wealth of information he could draw from and help other people; he was also a very humble man and made a point to recognize other talented artists,” said Meyer.

Senior Nicole Manzo got the opportunity to work with Taylor on a project for her IB art class. “I loved working with him. He was almost like a grandpa figure to me; I’m just so inspired by his art and he truly helped me become the artist I am today,” said Manzo.

Taylor and Meyer were also involved in last year’s Retired Kettering Art Teacher Exhibit, said Fairmont AP 3D Design teacher Susan Bennett.

Taylor also built the fountain in the courtyard outside the art rooms to honor a fellow artist. “We call it our Art Pond. It is dedicated to one of Wayne’s good friends, Mr. Reed, who is currently battling cancer,” said art teacher Candy Clark.

When Taylor became the Art Coordinator at Fairmont, he wanted to promote the systemwide art program and create an art show. He established an organization called N2 ART, which Meyer describes as “so simple, yet so cool.” The annual N2 ART Exhibit features art of all media from students of all ages.

This “gentle” and humble man will be missed by friends, family, students and talented artists who followed his painting techniques, but the memories will remain strong through Wayne Taylor’s art work in the halls at Fairmont High School.

“His whole art staff loved him and will miss him tremendously,” said Bennett.


5 Responses to “Wayne Taylor remembered for his art … and his heart”

  1. Anita Wray on January 10th, 2012 8:36 pm

    A wonderfully written article about a wonderful man.

  2. Jessica Kelly on January 27th, 2012 9:30 am

    I was lucky enough to have Mr. Taylor in 7th grade at Van Buren JHS in 1987.

    I was struggling to draw a human face. He placed a desk in front of a mirror, had me sit down, look at myself and draw it upside down!
    He told me I was trying to draw “an eye” instead of drawing what see. By drawing upside down, I would not draw what my mind believed to be an eye, but instead draw what I see. I don’t remember a lot from 20 plus years ago, but I have never forgotten his kindness and instruction.
    RIP, Mr. Taylor

  3. Annette Gast on January 1st, 2013 3:13 am

    I just found out. New Year’s Day at 3 a.m 2013. I’ve been trying to reach him for 2 years. I feel like my father has died! My husband just diagnosed with brain cancer! This is too much!!! I can’t handle this!!!

  4. Annette Gast on January 1st, 2013 4:03 am

    Reading again, I see he built the fountain. The last time I saw him was before I moved to N.E. (now back). He came to me looking for water plants. I had NO IDEA. How can I get copies of his work? His last piece I saw him working on was of an elderly black jazz musician gentleman. I can picture it in my mind. A tall canvas. It would mean the world to me as he is responsible for what I am today. My only worth. He was pure love and patience, always giving. I will NEVER forget him as long as I live.

  5. John Ashenfelter on August 19th, 2017 4:57 pm

    One reason I am now an art teacher was Wayne. The one year he taught me at Van Buren Junior High in 1975 was the year I knew I would be an artist. Afterward he continued to take an interest in my progress even into college.

    He was the epitome of patience, kindness, and Christian charity. God rest his soul.

    John Ashenfelter
    Head of Art
    Maidstone Grammar School
    Kent, England

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