Sydney Kurland (1933 - 2010)

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  • "Syd was my art history teacher in l964 at MSU. My husband..."
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    - Carol Van Delinder
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Sydney Kurland, 77, of Gallatin Gateway, passed away Oct. 28, 2010, after a brief illness. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1933 to Benjamin and Gussie Kurland. As a young boy he was infused with the determination that carried through for the rest of his life. He began to draw at the age of 3 and likely decided quite early on that this was to be his chosen profession.

He served in the Army and served briefly in Korea near the DMZ at the end of the war. He decided to try his hand at writing and soon began writing a column for The Stars and Stripes newspaper which gave him confidence that would serve him later in life when writing his dissertation.

He received his BFA and MFA from Brooklyn College and was a curator for The Brooklyn Museum. In 1964 he accepted a position at Montana State University where he taught painting, graphics and drawing, alongside his colleagues Frances Senska, Jesse Wilber and Bob DeWeese. Then in 1970 his restless spirit turned him in a different direction and he applied and was accepted into the Ph.D. program in comparative arts at Ohio University, which was geared to those with studio arts degrees. He spent three years there and returned to MSU to teach art history and complete his dissertation on the Aesthetic Quest of Thomas Cole and Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1979 Sydney suffered a major stroke and determinedly regained his ability to walk and to communicate. A part of his rehabilitation was his desire to resume his painting and he exhibited with the MSU art faculty at their biannual shows. Another part of his rehabilitation process was his partnership with Rick Blevins which gave him the opportunity to be a part of a profession and to meet and communicate with a new group of people. He gained great confidence from his time with Rick and their clients. Whenever he got stuck and couldn't say what he meant he would point to his head and say "brain damaged"!

He would always laugh and remark that before his stroke he spoke beautiful English and that no one knew where he came from, but that after his stroke when his Brooklyn accent returned he said he didn't care what came out. He never complained and always marveled that he was still alive and indeed celebrated this fact each year on the anniversary of his stroke. His ranch, which borders the Gallatin River in Gateway, was his spiritual home and he took great pride in telling everyone that he was only the third owner on the property. It gave him great peace to be able to look out at his land and see the various wildlife that roamed his 35 acres.

His students will always remember him as the brash-talking New Yorker who told them in all seriousness that the pyramids couldn't possibly be made from stone, that in reality they were made from Styrofoam and then glued together with Nile stork droppings. It gave him great pleasure to think that he had unleashed a group of students, some of whom might become teachers themselves and that they would pass this bit of revisionist history along to a new group of unsuspecting students.

He was predeceased by his parents, and sister, Pearl Aronowitz.

He leaves a nephew, Bryan Rosenthal of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a cousin, Rochelle Silfen of Centreport, N.Y., as well as his beloved friend, Emily B. Gadd of Bozeman, and his good friends, Rick, Sue and Erika Blevins of Gallatin Gateway. His friends will remember him as an intelligent and determined individual, and he will be sorely missed by those who knew him.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Congregation Beth Shalom, 2010 W. Koch St., Bozeman, MT 59715.

A celebration of Syd's life will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at the Gallatin Gateway Community Center.

Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Nov. 10 to Nov. 12, 2010
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