Tom Nuzum to Be Remembered in a Special Way During ArtWalk

By Jessica Strachan | The Flint Journal
on November 04, 2011 at 7:10 AM, updated November 04, 2011 at 6:43 PM

At the Second Friday ArtWalk this month, there’ll be more than vibrant artistry on display, performers along the streets and music flooding onto the streets.

This time, there’ll be a special sense of honor, remembrance and celebration for one of Flint’s most prominent artists: the late Tom Nuzum.

“Tom’s death really hit me surprisingly hard,” said local artist Tim Kranz, 37.

“I have had a few painting mentors, but Tom was the first one I took classes from. I didn’t realize, until that time, how much of an initial impact he had on my art, how much I enjoyed our interactions since I’ve matured, and it bothered me that I’d never be able to talk with him about art, educating, life, etc., again.”

Nuzum was known throughout the Flint community as an artist, teacher, mentor and — among his most significant roles — a founding member and former president of Buckham Gallery.

Earlier This year, Nuzum lost his 11-year battle with cancer, but his fellow artists will tell you that his work — and influence — is still very much alive.

local artist at Buckham Gallery.

“No matter what the show, the subject matter or the medium, Tom was always at the gallery shortly before each opening looking for any paintings that needed straightening or any holes that needed to be patched. He was there, no matter what, to make sure that we were showing the work in the best possible light.”

Hauth remembers in particular how gracious Nuzum was to new artists on the scene.

“I recall my first meeting as a member; Tom immediately came up and introduced himself and started to ask me about my work and my experiences. He was a true force of artistic energy and will be missed by us all.”

At Friday’s opening of Nuzum’s memorial exhibit, friends, family, former students and colleagues will gather to revisit his art and impact. Other founding members of Buckham Gallery, such as Sam Morello, also will come together. Morello promises the event to be a celebration of Nuzum’s life.

Nuzum, a former Mott Community College professor, helped found the gallery with a group of local artists in 1984. The gallery was founded as a center for innovative and contemporary art — both visual and performance arts — for the Flint communities.

He attended the California College of Art, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine arts. After teaching at San Francisco State, Nuzum went on to become a Fulbright scholar in Valencia, Spain.

Following teaching positions at Murray State, Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin, Nuzum moved to Flint, where he taught art at Mott Community College from 1973 until his death in February.

“Aside from painting, Tom was also my first figure drawing instructor. I remember one time in figure drawing (class) how he showed us not to see anything as too sacred, unorthodox or not good enough,” said Kranz, also a Buckham Gallery artist.

Kranz took Nuzum’s classes from the time he was 22 and learned some of his most prominent techniques, such as harnessing his own “natural” use of powerful color and brushwork. Kranz says he’ll carry Nuzum’s influence with him for the rest of his life.

“The color palette I use to this day is pretty much the one he had suggested to me with just a few additions over time. My painting style has evolved a bit but, a few years ago, people would look at my work and say things like ‘Your color use looks like you took classes with Tom Nuzum,’ to which I replied, ‘I don’t think so, but thank you, I actually did take his classes.’ ”

Kranz remembers Nuzum as having an infectious spirit and now as an art instructor himself, Kranz also tries to embody that same charisma with his classes at UM-Flint.

“Tom was a fun but serious professor, another thing I have tried to emulate,” he said.

“I loved how he would just bounce in and out of the room singing random tunes and saying random quotes. For some reason, him loudly belting out ‘DING, DING, DING, goes the trolley!’ has always stuck in my memory.”

For more information about Tom Nuzum’s Memorial Exhibition or Buckham Gallery, contact Executive Director Sam Huff at or 810-239-6233.

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