Rick Williams, 71
October 15, 1946 -
August 3, 2018
The children found him through his laugh. We all knew him through his love, kindness, humor and resonant voice. He changed lives through his vision, his mind and heart, and his remarkably giving spirit of grace and power.
Award-winning photographer, author, scholar and educator Rick Williams (full name Fred Richard Williams, Jr.) was born October 15, 1946 in Houston, Texas, to Iris Eileen Schmidt Williams and Fred Richard Williams Sr. - their first born and a fifth-generation Texan. He died August 3, 2018, under a bright blue Oregon sky, with the sounds of the McKenzie River flowing nearby, and his family surrounding him with love.
Rick's life was full and deep with family, friends and a continuing legacy of work and contributions to the lives of others.
Rick was an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Bellaire High School in Houston, attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, University of Houston, Southern Methodist University and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied photography, art, journalism and advertising and earned bachelor's (1970) and master's (1988) degrees.
For almost 30 years, Rick ran a commercial and editorial photography studio in Austin, photographing for national media and developing specialties in social documentary and technology. His 20-year documentary project resulted in the book Working Hands, chronicling the ranching, oil and high-tech cultures of Texas.
Rick was a founding board member, president and executive director of the Texas Photographic Society, a non-profit organization celebrating the photographic arts with present membership in eight countries and 42 states.
Rick pioneered visual and art education through multiple initiatives, founding the Photo-Communications Program at St. Edward's University in Austin. Rick also taught photojournalism at UT Austin, where he developed a popular course in Visual Literacy with as many as 500 students a semester, and taught advanced photography and visual literacy at the University of Oregon. He served as Dean of the Division of the Arts at Lane Community College from 2005 until his retirement in 2016.
An award-winning scholar as well as an artist and teacher, Rick's research explored the theory and practice of visual art and documentary photography as core components of a comprehensive, liberal education. His book Visual Communication: Integrating Media, Art and Science won the Marshall McLuhan Award for Best Book of 2009 and a second edition is due out in 2019.
Rick also founded ArtsWork in Education (AWE), a multi-year project training more than 300 teachers and artists in 12 Oregon school districts, teaching arts learning processes to some 4,000 students. The goal of the project was to enhance learning and performance across the disciplines by using arts learning techniques to cultivate creative, critical thinking and decision making.
Rick also contributed his expertise to community initiatives. In addition to his work with the photographic community, he served on the National Academy of Science Visualization Task Force for Engineering and was a founding board member of the American Institute for Learning in Austin and a founding elder of The Well. In Oregon, he served on the Leadership Council of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, was acquisitions consultant to UO Libraries Special Collections, served on the Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene, and advised arts education initiatives of the Lane Arts Council.
After Rick retired from LCC, he began to work on his photographic legacy, organizing his archive of more than 100,000 negatives and 15,000 digital images. The project culminated in a 50-year retrospective of his work in the exhibition "Emergence: An Arts Journey" at LCC in February 2017. Rick and his son Josh Williams exhibited work together in Austin in October 2017.
In addition to walking and photographing on Oregon beaches, Rick's personal passions included reading fiction and poetry, writing poetry, fishing, and treating friends, students and family to his gourmet specialties of seafood gumbo, southwest shrimp pasta, frijoles rancheros and venison chili.
Rick's photographs have been shown in some 100 exhibitions and are in numerous permanent collections, including the University of Texas Ransom Center, Houston Museum of Fine Art, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art and Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. Jill Hartz, JSMA executive director, recently acquired 10 of Rick's photographs for the museum's collection. His photograph "Kate's 4th of July Dream, Holy Cross Brothers Lake House, Austin, Texas, 1979," was on view through the summer in the museum's ?Decade of Collecting? exhibition. Hartz noted that Rick's "photographs reflect his great empathy and insight into the human experience." In her tribute to him, Hartz wrote, "Rick, himself, was a man of grace and power. He was warm, perceptive and generous in his friendships and academic work and powerful in his presence and artistic vision."
Rick Williams was a doer, a giver, a lover of life and people, a father, husband, grandfather, brother, friend, colleague. He lived large, always creating, building, growing, and working to become the best person he could be, to help others and to make the world better. He was never content to rest. We will always find him by his laugh, his love, his magnificent heart, and his deep, abiding soul.
In the gallery talk introducing his 50-year photographic retrospective, Rick talked of being aware of the challenges of integrating and balancing mind and spirit from the time he was a young boy: "But it was not until I started looking at my photographs, knowing that they were mostly instantaneous, intuitively created images, that I began to see that it was the creative spirit within that guided my intellectual ruminations as well as my behavior and my image making, with camera and otherwise. Although my aspirations, talent and conscious planning set the stage for my work, the power to embrace the grace of creative passions in the moment of being came from within, beyond anything I had planned."
He continued, "For me, the practice of art is always a continuum of Emergence into new awareness and new realms of realities imagined or envisioned and lived and shared. It is a life-enriching journey of integrating and balancing mind and spirit, talent and inspiration, intellect and creativity with grace and power."
One of Rick's best-known photographs, "Hand on the Saddle," epitomizes the grace, power and passion of Rick's eye, mind and heart. He wrote, "For me, balance has to do with embracing the multiple interacting and opposing elements of life both within and outside of myself. I like to think of it as embracing paradox, that is, accepting that seeming opposing forces or entities are parts of solving the same problems?. It is the integration of our lives with paradox that makes this so interesting."
Rick is survived by his wife, Julianne Newton Williams of Eugene, Oregon; sons, Joshua Springer Williams and wife Bryn of Austin, and Matthew Sojourner Newton and wife Sofia of Albany, CA; daughter, Katherine Ruth Williams Waitzkin and husband Graeme of Dallas; grandchildren, Miles, Wills and Shields Waitzkin; Sage and Farrah Williams; and Elliott and Finlay Newton; sister, Pamela Bunderson and husband Steve of Salt Lake City; brother, Mark Williams and wife Tina of Savannah, Ga.; former wife Nancy Springer Baldwin of Austin; former wife Cindy Roup Harp of Austin; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Rick's family and friends will celebrate and give thanks for his beautiful life at 4 pm Sunday, October 7, on the banks of the Willamette River at Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm, 36777 Wheeler Road, Pleasant Hill, OR 97455, with reception following. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in memory of Rick to the
Rick Williams Fund, Arts Education Program, Lane Arts Council, https://lanearts.org/donate/
or to the Rick Williams Fund, Creative Action?s Teen Program, https://creativeaction.org.
Arrangements entrusted to Musgrove Family Mortuary. Please access the obituary and you are invited to sign the guestbook at musgroves.com.
(Photograph by Frank Armstrong).
Rick Williams - a man of Grace and Power.
Published by Eugene Register-Guard on Sep. 30, 2018.