Art professor retires after 37 years at Weber

Professor xxx xxx is retiring at the end of this semester. (Photo by Jeffrey Herbert / The Signpost)
Professor Susan Makov is retiring at the end of this semester. (Photo by Jeffrey Herbert / The Signpost)

In 1977, “Star Wars” was first released, Elvis Presley died, a gallon of gas cost 65 cents and Susan Makov began teaching at Weber State University’s visual art department.

After nearly four decades of teaching art courses at Weber State, Makov will be retiring at the end of this semester.

Makov grew up in Hicksville, New York, in the 1960s and decided to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who were artists.

“Because my parents were both artists, art was where I was expected to go,” Makov said.

Ruth and Boris Makov were not just Makov’s parents, but also her mentors. They were painters and illustrators working as window designers.

“My mom was the first female window designer in New York, so she told me,” Makov said. She can remember watching her mother paint and teaching painting on Saturdays.

In 1974, Makov received a bachelor of fine arts from Syracuse University. She had planned to study fashion illustration, but changed her mind after touring the school’s print studio.

“I had done just a tiny bit of printmaking in high school,” Makov said. “But I walked by the studio and said, ‘OK, I’m changing my major. I’m doing printmaking,’ and that was it.”

Three years after her time at Syracuse, Makov began her teaching career at Weber State. Makov did not plan on staying in Utah for as long as she has. She says that even after 38 years of teaching at Weber, the time has flown by.

“I still feel like I’m 25,” Makov said. “I still feel like I just stepped off the plane and I’m looking around going, ‘Oh my goodness, this is not Hicksville, Long Island.’”

Moving to the “open space” of Utah, the artist said she filled it up with lots of dots and dashes that were in her imagination.

“I learned a lot about the Utah geology and found all these great spaces,” Makov said. For many years, she did black and white film photography of the large, open lands in Utah.

Beginning her career at Weber as one of only six female tenure-track teachers on campus, Makov taught printmaking.

Because there was a small number of female teachers at the time, Makov was invited to be a part of the Faculty Wives’ Club at Weber.

“Thankfully that kind of thing doesn’t exist any longer,” Makov said. “We’ve got professional associations here on campus, so no one has to worry about why they were invited to the Faculty Wives’ Club.”

As an art professor, Makov believes in the idea of paying it forward by letting her students know what is important.

“Giving them the skills so they can do their own work … is what I’ve always thought about as far as being a professor here at Weber State,” Makov said.

Bryce Johns, a former student of Makov’s, found her teaching to be helpful while learning the art of printmaking.

“It’s the way she goes through and explains the processes,” Johns said. “She gives you great feedback and explains how to make everything the best it can be.”

Makov has not only given students help and support through their time in her classes, but has left positive impressions with her colleagues at WSU.

Assistant professor of graphic design, Liese Zahabi, said her favorite thing about working with Makov is her openness to new ideas in the field.

“If you look at the arc of her career, she just keeps reinventing her work, and she’s always willing to help students do that as well,” Zahabi said.

Zahabi is impressed with how Makov is “great about sharing her letterpress with the design faculty.”

Makov uses the letterpress to run Green Cat Press, which turns 30 years old this year. Through her years of owning the private press, Makov has collaborated with artists and authors to produce limited edition letterpress broadsides, books and woodcut print from original writings and drawings. She recalled working with author Ray Bradbury on several occasions.

“We were able to go visit him out in California, which was really cool,” Makov said. “I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. He was just a wonderful storyteller.”

Makov is now nearing her last weeks at Weber State, but she believes she is ready to begin the next stage of her life. She is looking forward to focusing more of her time on painting again.

“My plan is to stay here for at least three more years doing whatever I want to do and trying to figure out what I want to do,” Makov said. “That’s pretty much it.”