Kathy Carlisle had taught visual arts at St. Francis High since 2008.

Obituary: Kathryn Mary Carlisle won acclaim for visual arts teaching at St. Francis High School

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 - 12:00 pm

An accomplished photographer and St. Francis High School art teacher died this weekend when she was struck by a train while taking photos near the school's east Sacramento campus.

Kathy Carlisle, 52, was hit by a Union Pacific train shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday near 65th Street and Elvas Avenue. Sacramento police said Carlisle was taking photos of an oncoming train when she was hit from behind by a train coming in the opposite direction.

A statement from St. Francis school president Margo Reid Brown said Carlisle was "doing what she loved – engaging in her passion for photography" when she was killed.

Formal classes at the high school will be canceled today. Instead, the school is holding a memorial service for students, parents and family.

Students were instructed to report to their homerooms at 8 a.m., then gather in the gym at 8:15 a.m. for the service. School officials said grief counselors will be available, and students may leave the campus at 10:30 a.m.

Carlisle joined the St. Francis faculty in 2008 to teach art, painting, sculpture and photography. More recently, she gained national attention for her visual arts work with students on Holocaust projects.

Carlisle's friend Diane Pibbs said the family is receiving an outpouring of support from both the St. Francis community and from local Waldorf school parents and staff. All three of Carlisle's children attended Waldorf schools in Sacramento.

Kathryn Mary Carlisle, a Detroit native, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with a bachelor's degree in art education in 1982. She earned her master's degree in drawing and ceramic sculpture at CSUS in 1985.

Friends said Carlisle was well-regarded as a photographer and connected in the local visual arts community. She taught a unit for the visual and performing arts program focusing on the Holocaust, and produced several local student Holocaust exhibitions.

"I've taught it every year and for me it's just a really compelling way to help students understand how those issues of racism and genocide actually apply to their lives today," she was quoted as saying in a Valley Community Newspapers article in August.

One student project, "The Holocaust: Illuminated Memory," was featured at local Jewish cultural centers. The student collection has been invited to be displayed at the University of Minnesota in April 2013.

Howard Oransky, director of the University of Minnesota art gallery, said the exhibit at the Regis Center of Art will coincide with Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He was introduced to Carlisle's work by Elizabeth Igra, president of the Central Valley Holocaust Educators Network. He pledged to dedicate the presentation to Carlisle's memory.

"I consider 'Illuminated Memory' to be a model for how young people can meaningfully engage the history of the Holocaust through a combination of academic and studio activity," he said in an email to The Bee.

Carlisle also was one of 26 teachers and civic leaders in the country awarded a fellowship to study the Holocaust at the Memorial Library in New York City last summer. The program was designed to encourage teachers to think creatively about methods of teaching the Holocaust.

"Kathy was a passionate artist, and dedicated teacher to her students," St. Francis' Reid Brown said. "She possessed the ability to teach students to connect to their audience through art and showed them the incredible power of photography to tell a story or convey a message."

Randy Allen, an adjunct photography professor at Sacramento City College, said Carlisle was taking his multimedia arts class this fall.

Allen, a former Bee photo editor, said his students are required to make two short documentary films, and Carlisle was incorporating some students' work on the Holocaust into a film. "The last I talked to Kathy, her project had nothing to do with trains," he said.

However, as a photographer and instructor, Allen is familiar with the attraction and the risks of taking photos of trains, particularly because photographers concentrate so intensely on what's in front of them. "Trains are beautiful things to photograph, but you have to remember how dangerous it can be," he said.

Reid Brown said Carlisle is survived by her husband, Steve Jarvis, and three children: Will and Bianca, who attend college, and Violet, who is a freshman at St. Francis.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Anne Gonzales



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