22 January 2010

Maurice

It was always good to see Maurice Grossman. He was everywhere in the arts: at lots of POG readings over the years, and once, giving one himself while throwing a pot on his portable wheel. If you frequented art openings, musical events, etc., you also frequently ran into Maurice. He always had a smile and a hug, a piece of wit, and always was genuinely glad to see you. He was also one of the great artists of this community, a renowned ceramist who taught and influenced many, in his years as a teacher, at the university, and beyond. He was also a brave activist on behalf of LGBT issues. He was a terrific guy. He is already terribly missed.



Maurice Grossman died this morning.

charles


Here is a message sent widely:

The world is full of cheerful, unsung heroes. One of them passed away this morning and Tucson is a bit less cheerful for his passing.

Maurice Grossman, a former University of Arizona art professor, died this morning following heart valve replacement surgery. He was 82.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1927, he became an educator and ceramic artist in Arizona. He studied at Wayne State University and earned an MFA at Ohio State University. From 1955 to 1988, he was Professor of Ceramics at the University of Arizona in Tucson after founding their ceramics program. I came to know him during the campaign to try to defeat Arizona’s Prop 102. He was just one of those guys who seemed to know just about everyone, and no one he knew could ever be an enemy.

Last October, he was selected to be the Grand Marshal for Tucson’s Pride parade. (Tucson holds its parade in October as a concession to the typically scorching 105+ degree summer temperatures.) The UofA’s Arizona Daily Wildcat featured Maurice’s honor with a good description of his journey:

Grossman was a UA professor from 1955 to 1989 and started the three-dimensional arts program in the Art Department during that time. “I’m very proud of what I accomplished and am still acknowledged when I’m on campus,” Grossman said. “I loved my students; I love teaching. In a way I’m still teaching.”

Grossman said he lived the first part of his life trying to determine who he was. He got married in his 20s, and had two children with his wife, who died in 1978.

“Like most gay men, I was trying to understand more about myself,” Grossman said. “At that time, in my 20s, I met a very beautiful and lovely woman and we fell in love.”

Though he was married and in love with his wife until she died, Grossman said he knew he was gay before then. In 1978 Grossman became more politically active in the gay community. He volunteered with Wingspan and Stonewall Democrats in Tucson. He waited a few years before he told anyone he was gay.

“When I told (my children), they knew; they said, ‘we’ve known for years,’” Grossman said.

Grossman said there was no real fallout or loss of friendships because of his revelation.

If you had the pleasure of knowing Maurice, you’d understand why.

The thing that impressed me about him is that he didn’t think to bother about slowing down. Age was an occasional nuisance but never a hindrance. And nothing was going to get in the way of his good cheer. He remained very active in the LGBT community and in the local arts scene. The Dinnerware Gallery in 2007 threw a fifty-year retrospective for him to coincide with Maurice’s 80th birthday.

There are a lot of sad people here in Tucson today.