Remembering Spokane artist and teacher Dick Ibach

click to enlarge Richard "Dick" Ibach, left, with his son Daniel. - PHOTO USED WITH FAMILY PERMISSION FROM IBACH'S FACEBOOK
Photo used with family permission from Ibach's Facebook
Richard "Dick" Ibach, left, with his son Daniel.

Richard "Dick" Ibach made an impression for many reasons: his vibrant and quirky paintings, his lengthy career mentoring others, his harmonica playing, and above all his humor. Ibach passed away near the end of 2021, and while his family is still working on final plans, local artists and educators who knew him have shared some of their fond memories of him.

Artist Kay O’Rourke connected with Ibach in a painting class at Gonzaga University in the '70s, when minimalist, conceptual and abstract expressionist art was all the rage. Ibach’s work, however, "was a narrative form that spoke to his life and his fears and his hopes," O’Rourke says.

click to enlarge Dick Ibach - COURTESY OF KAY O'ROURKE
Courtesy of Kay O'Rourke
Dick Ibach
For many of our region's artists, Ibach was their first art teacher. After graduating with his Master’s of Fine Art from New York’s Pratt Institute in 1972, Ibach taught in New York, as well as in Spokane at Gonzaga Prep and Ferris High School. And at Spokane Falls Community College, where Ibach taught for more than 20 years, he influenced generations of artists.

Ric Gendron was a few years older than most of the students in Ibach’s painting class at SFCC in 1985-86 and appreciated the rigor of the experience.

"Although Dick Ibach was an easy going guy with a great sense of humor, he was no pushover and very serious when it came to painting," says Gendron (Colville/Arrow Lakes), a prolific painter who has exhibited abundantly throughout the northwest. "I always loved his whimsical work…the spontaneity and feel. … I was glad to have him as my first serious teacher."

Bradd Skubinna also met Ibach at SFCC and remembers him as fairly quiet, with a gentle manner in the classroom, who nonetheless made a strong impression on Skubinna.

"He was the first teacher I'd had where I thought, 'Oh, he's an artist!'" says Skubinna, who started teaching at SFCC shortly after Ibach retired. "My knowledge of contemporary art was VERY limited at that age, so [Ibach’s] work made an impression on me."

Retired SFCC art instructor MacKenzie Hawley worked alongside Ibach for 11 years and credits him with helping her develop as a teacher.

"We talked a lot about color and much of what I learned was from Dick," says Hawley, who has also taught at EWU, CCS, Spokane Art School and several area high schools.

Her appreciation for Ibach’s mentorship goes beyond her professional career, Hawley says, as she has a personal connection to him as well.

Hawley’s son, Ryan, had Ibach as a teacher while attending SFCC through their Running Start Program for high school juniors and seniors, and loved Ibach’s “wonderful funny way of teaching."

"Ryan went on to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle….he still said Dick Ibach was his all time favorite teacher," Hawley says. She adds that Ibach was, "A good human, a great artist, a great teacher, and friend. He will be missed."

You can view some of Ibach's work on the Arts WA website

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