McClelland art on display in city government building

Serene landscapes, animals in peaceful repose, and the birds for which he is known are just a few examples of Jim McClelland’s vast artistic repertoire. And now, through the months of January and February, 27 of these hand-selected favorites will be on display in the Lincoln and Lancaster county-city building.

On December 6 the county commission presented the exhibit featuring the art of Union professor Jim McClelland.  The invitation-only event recognizing McClelland’s achievements was hosted in the county-city building in celebration of his winning submission for the Juried One Man Show.  McClelland was awarded this honor after his application was chosen by a panel of judges.  For the display he chose a diverse representation from his varied themes and styles, including oil painting and both opaque and transparent watercolors.

This award is only one of many in a career that spans decades and continents.  As a young artist, McClelland actively sought gallery exhibits, international events and art sales, both for the income with which he could support his family and the recognition that accompanied it. 

Now he is content to teach four classes per semester, down from six as he transitions into retirement. 

Though he still enjoys displaying his art for the occasional gallery exhibit, he no longer pursues acclaim and financial incentives with the fervor of his early career. But he continues to paint with the same dedication that defines his career.  For McClelland, it’s no longer a conscious choice but an action as necessary and regular as eating. 

“If you’re an artist, you have to create,” he explained. “I don’t paint to sell, I paint for my soul.” 

But as long as people find joy in his art, he will continue displaying it. 

The modesty with which McClelland speaks of his achievements is a reflection of his belief in the Creator God.  Using the first book of Genesis as inspiration, he explains that he worships the ultimate Artist, a God who designed life with supreme creativity.  He says his only ambition now is to discover that part of God in himself and use it to benefit people.

McClelland is equally passionate about inspiring artistry in others.  For more than forty years he has taught art at the secondary and post-secondary level, fostering the same creative spirit that compels him to paint.  “I like encouraging the gift of art in others,” he said.

Senior graphic design major Devi Halim has taken four classes from McClelland and was impressed by how much she learned in each one.  “He encourages you to be creative,” Halim said.  “And he is really passionate about art.”

McClelland has recently been recognized for his career both in art and education by Battle Creek Academy, where he taught art and English from 1967-74.  The issue of Battle Creek Academy Magazine dedicated to his life and work was published December 5.

Though he continues to teach, McClelland is transitioning into retirement, a phase in his life that means less time in the classroom, but more time in the studio.  “I try and paint every day,” said McClelland.  “That won’t change.”

The collection of wild life, still life, and landscapes are open to the public through the months of January and February. The Lincoln and Lancaster county-city building is located at 555 S. 10th Street in Lincoln.