For nearly thirty years, Eldon "E.C." Cunningham taught printmaking as the program coordinator at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He was also the director of the school's Vicious Dog Press. On October 1, Cunningham died suddenly, rocking the Auraria campus and causing the print program at Metro to shut down last week as students and faculty caught their collective breath. An on-campus memorial was held at Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church on October 8.
Though Cunningham only rarely exhibited his work (example pictured) in the area, he did show nationally, and his work is in a number of collections around the country. He was also a printmaking authority, having served as president of the Mid America Print Council, and wrote books on the medium, including Higher Education Logic for Printmaking and Printmaking, A Primary Form of Expression.
"My creative works are a personal internalized reaction to observations and investigations I have had as an artist living and working in the West," Cunningham wrote some years ago.
Born in 1956 in Kansas, Cunningham earned his BFA at Wichita State University and his MFA at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he worked with Clinton Cline. He began teaching at Metro in 1983 and is credited with having built the school's printmaking program, which was in disarray when he got there. Reflecting the universal high regard in which he was held, a group of his students and colleagues have begun an effort to have the print lab named in his honor. (The Metro ceramics studio was similarly named for Rodger Lang, who also died while still teaching.)
Good Thieves Press, at 2401 Stout Street, which was named for a remark Cunningham frequently made about artists, is planning a salute to him November 4 through 13. "His greatest loves of all were teaching and making art," notes Jennifer Garner, who had been both a student and a colleague of Cunningham's, "and he was doing both the day he died."