The University of Kentucky houses a collection consisting of paper materials, photographic prints, slides, and videotapes formerly belonging to John Regis Tuska. John Tuska was a University of Kentucky Professor of Art from 1963 to 1992. The collection is divided into eight series: correspondence; sketchbooks, diaries and notes; appointment books; printed materials; teaching materials; photographic prints; slides; and video tapes. The date span of the collection is 1931-1999.
View the University of Kentucky Collection
Director, University of Kentucky
Special Collection Archives
On The Dedication of the Tuska Papers, April 26, 2004
John Tuska's creations-his ceramics, drawings, and sculpture-are all around us; housed in private collections, in museums, and in public places. Tuska's artwork provides us with clues about his identity as an artist and a person, but only by studying his archives-his notebooks, diaries, still photographs, slides, correspondence, and memorabilia-are we able to begin to understand the creative spirit behind the artist's drive. These primary source materials provide invaluable insights into Tuska's thought process, his perceptions, and the events which shaped his life and influenced his art.
Allow me to give you a few examples from portions of the collection which are currently on exhibit at the Lucille Little Library:
For instance, on page 34 of John Tuska's 1950 high school yearbook is a quotation from Omar Khayam which reads: "For I remember stopping by the way to watch a potter." What a prophetic phrase to have been chosen by a young man who was to become a master potter himself.
Insights into the artist's vaunted work ethic, partially inherited from his hard-working parents, are provided in an interview in the collection in which he states, "I've worked continuously. My survival depends on work. The creative person has to work, and to be extroverted. Work requires energy, persistence. And, work generates ideas."
Ideas, which are central to any artist's creativity, are captured in Tuska's extensive series of notebooks and sketchbooks. Tuska kept drawings going constantly in pocket or bedside notebooks. Ideas, particularly nocturnal ones, were serious business for the artist who might arise at 3:30 am to record them. His sketchbooks became a tool-a vital part of his thought process and provide invaluable insight into his thinking.
Finally, the artist's photographic print, slide, and video collections, which contain hundreds of images, visually capture the skills and processes Tuska used to create his pieces of art both large and small.
The Tuska collection consists of more than 20 cubic feet of material stored in 90 boxes.
This remarkable archive is a rare and important acquisition for the University of Kentucky Libraries. Not only will these papers enrich the legacy of John Tuska, they will also serve as grist for future research. We have few archival collections in the area of fine arts that can match the Tuska archive in the quality of its contents.
Thus, we will be eternally grateful to donors Seth and Stephen Tuska for this gift.