Oliver Parson: Mormon Artist
Oliver Parson was an artist and art professor. He was the first art department dean at Ricks College, where he taught until 1979.
Parson was born in Kansas on December 24, 1916, and grew up in a dugout on a farm in Hunter, Kansas.
- "I started doing art in about the second grade using crayons and paint," said Parson. "I saw an ad in a magazine that said, 'Draw me and send it in,' I did, and the magazine wrote me back and told me my drawing was beautiful. That year I sold taffy made by my mother so that I could buy an art book from that magazine. When it arrived, the inscription read, 'Oliver Parson, future artist.'"
His family moved to Ogden, Utah, in 1936. He married Myra Barker in 1940 and they were the parents of nine children, including professional artists Del Parson and Leon Parson. Parson received a bachelor of arts’ degree from the University of Utah, after which he taught junior high school in the Salt Lake School District. Parson later earned his master degree from Weber State University and further postgraduate work in art at the University of Colorado.
In 1941, his father broke his arm and asked Parson to move back to North Ogden to help him, which he did. Shortly after he received a notice from the draft board and consequently joined the Army, and after being shipped overseas, he became ill and was sent to Paris to recover. Most of his service during the war was entertaining troops with chalk talks, which were comics drawn on chalkboards.
After the war, he moved his family to Springville, Utah, where he taught art and became the curator of the Springville Art Museum. After Hyrum Manwaring, the president of Ricks College, observed him teaching, he invited Parson to teach art at Ricks College for the summer. That led to a full position and Parson relocated his family to Rexburg, Idaho, in 1954.
While in Rexburg, he was the art director for the Blackfoot Fair, where he adjudicated art entries. He also encouraged his children to enter pieces in the fair.
He founded The Traveling Art Camp, which was an organization where he could teach his Ricks students to draw landmarks and areas of the country they visited. Some of his family came also and he often recruited other students from all over the country.
He was prolific artist and produced thousands of impressionistic paintings of nature and the old West in oils, watercolors, and pastels, most of which was sold
Parson was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a full-time mission to Oklahoma and Nebraska. He died on April 29, 2013.