Daniel J. Frye, a metal artisan and widely respected teacher who was an art professor at California State University, Sacramento, died July 20 at age 58.
The cause was cancer, art department Chairwoman Catherine Turrill said. He had been on medical leave since he last taught in the spring of 2013.
Dr. Frye was an accomplished artist in metals before joining the CSUS faculty in 2000. He received awards in national and regional juried competitions, including a 1999 general excellence award at the Newburyport Art Association Craft Exhibition. He exhibited his works in galleries at CSUS and in the community, and he served as a juror for the California State Fair art show.
In addition to teaching art education courses, he reinvigorated the metals and jewelry program at CSUS and nurtured connections between the university and the community. He mentored students in the studio and arranged in 2013 to introduce their works to a wider audience with a showing off campus, at The Temp Gallery on Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento.
Popular among students for his talent as an artist and his warm, outgoing personality, he received the 2010-11 Outstanding Teacher Award for the CSUS College of Arts and Letters.
“He really turned the metals and jewelry program around and made it what it is today,” Turrill said. “He created a very strong community in that program.”
As chairman from 2007 to 2013, Dr. Frye kept the art department’s studio programs functioning despite spending cuts. He generated support among regional galleries and donors to enable art students to complete their studies and serve the region as art educators in local school districts and community college.
“He was a steady hand on the department during extremely difficult budget years,” said Edward Inch, dean of arts and letters. “He was very good at connecting students, faculty and the university to people outside of campus. He had a passion for helping students meet their goals.”
Dr. Frye was born in 1955 in Pennsylvania. In a 2011 story in Sacramento magazine, he said his father wanted him to study physics in college, but he preferred the arts – so he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education from Millersville University in Pennsylvania.
He earned a doctorate in teaching and curriculum in 1991 from Syracuse University, where he was an African American Studies fellow and received a Syracuse University Fellowship. He began teaching at the University of Missouri in Columbia, which honored him with a teaching award in 1993. He wrote a manual, “Art Activities for the Elementary School,” in 2001.
His popular artworks included “Spirit Jars,” a collection of metal containers representing human attributes. He received a jurors award in the 1995 Texas “Hard and Soft” exhibition and a merit award in sculpture at Hoyt National Art Show in 1997. Images of his works can be seen at www.asn.csus.edu/art/frye.php.
Dr. Frye is survived by his mother, Roberta; a brother, J. Rudolph Jr.; and a sister, Merry Norfleet.
An exhibition of works by Dr. Frye and his students is being planned this fall at the Robert Else Gallery at CSUS, Turrill said.