My first glimpse of Ohio Wesleyan University emeritus professor Everett “Ebb” Haycock was not what I expected. He walked into the Ross Art Museum wearing a cut-off button-down shirt, holding a sketchpad, and looking almost as spry as in some of his exhibit photographs, showing him climbing 10-foot ladders while in his 30s.
Now 88, Haycock immediately found a chair with wheels and, with a gleam in his eye, began joking about chair races with Tammy Wallace, the museum’s first assistant. As we sat down he asked me, “Did you know you’re looking at an elderly folk?” and my conversation with the Delaware resident only got better from there.
Asked what he thought of his new art exhibit, Haycock replied, “This is a review of a lifetime.”
And he had a story to accompany each of the many pieces on display in the Ross Art Museum. His stories ranged from tales about the Medini family in Italy, who inspired his “Medini” casting, to thoughts about a three-piece sculpture he made for Huntington Bank of Columbus, Ohio.
“Every one of these makes a story,” Haycock says. “I cannot divorce myself from the original idea. This exhibit … permits me to make a review of where I’ve been.”
Being back at Ohio Wesleyan “rings the nostalgic bells” for Haycock, who retired in 1985 after 35 years as a fine arts professor. During his tenure, he was a driving force in creating OWU’s foundry (now located in Haycock Hall, named in his honor) and in developing the cast metal program.
He reminisced about pouring metals and casting sculptures with Ohio Wesleyan students.
“We were like a sports team,” Haycock says. “We were out there breaking our butts, the blood, sweat, and tears were real … [from] pouring metal at 2,100 degrees and hauling 250-pound molds and metals. We came together.”
Haycock’s passion for three-dimensional art spurred him to find creative solutions for every need and challenge.
“The budget was so d*mn tight,” Haycock recalls. “We needed an air-compressor … but it was too expensive. So, I got a vacuum and turned it to reverse, so it blew the air out instead of sucking it in. I believe it’s still in use to this day.”
Once the foundry was built, it set Ohio Wesleyan apart. Haycock remembers casting for Denison, Oberlin, and Wittenberg, among others, before they got their own foundries.
Not only did the foundry provide Ohio Wesleyan with unique capabilities, it gave students a much more meaningful experience, Haycock says.
“I think the kids were drawn to the drama, the smoke, the excitement of casting,” Haycock says. “But they also had a better understanding of the making of castings in the Renaissance. … The students were facing many of the same difficulties as the artists of Renaissance, such as DaVinci. That changed many art history classes, I think. They had a greater appreciation for those artists and what they didn’t have to work with.”
Haycock’s exhibit was a surprise to him—he was not informed of the show until the time was right for the surprise. The display, “Haycock Retrospective,” will be held Aug. 18 to Sept. 16 at the Ross Art Museum, with Haycock speaking at the museum at 3 p.m. Aug. 25. His presentation will be followed by an artist’s reception from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Justin Kronewetter, director of the Ross Art Museum, says this is an exhibit no one should miss.
“Although difficult to pull off as a surprise event, the exhibition of Ebb’s sculpture is one of the more successful exhibitions to be mounted in the Ross Art Museum in the past few years,” Kronewetter says. “Planning for the exhibition occurred over a year’s time and included the efforts of several members of Ebb’s family and a few close friends. When one considers the complexity of mounting such a show, it amazes me that there wasn’t a single slip up. …
“As for the show itself,” Kronewetter continues, “the individual works were created employing an unusually wide range of materials and techniques. Obviously, each work on display was created by a highly motivated artist whose technical skills were such that he was able to realize the full potential of each idea being pursued. And the ideas being pursued were as diverse and complex as the materials he employed. Whether working large or small, everything Ebb created came about as a labor of love. … Those who view Ebb’s sculptures are the beneficiaries of all the countless hours Ebb spent working alone in his studio throughout a long and illustrious career. His studio was his sanctuary and the works that he created there were truly inspired.”
Haycock says he and his wife, Teena, were returning from visiting grandchildren when plans for the exhibit were revealed.
“I was thoroughly surprised,” Haycock says. “The mechanics and physical display of a 3-D exhibit are difficult. … I don’t know how the kids arranged it so secretly.”
Haycock says he has enjoyed the opportunity the exhibit has created to review his life’s work.
“I didn’t realize, until I stepped over that threshold that this many pieces had been collected,” he says, looking around the spacious museum. “They would have had to go all over the place.”
During our interview, he also told me about a woman in the retirement home where he lives. Every day he would try to get her to draw, but she would always say, “I don’t know how. I can’t do that.” One day he took her hand and helped her draw a line with a pencil. Since then, she has made countless drawings of just lines, because she knows she can.
“They think, I can’t make a line like that,” Haycock says. “They all have these professional standards, but you don’t have to apply them to everything. Just do it!”
He continued to joke as we completed our interview, but shared a few serious thoughts, too.
“Have you ever just been overwhelmed by the grandeur of something?” he asked. “Each one of these is some kind of dream. … All of these make such crazy thoughts. I have the ability to make things analytically true, but I don’t want to. The thrill of conception, imagination, and seeing and then modifying—all of that is involved in this.”
His final story was of a woman he met in Italy while on a sabbatical.
“She asked me what I thought the most important word in Italian was,” Haycock remembers. “She said it was ‘pero,’ which means ‘however,’ because everything you say comes with a condition.”
I learned more in one afternoon from Ebb Haycock than I have in a long time, and I understood even more clearly what he meant about being overwhelmed by the grandeur of something.