“For you, the world,” Karl Ross Fisher used to say to his students and colleagues, who adored him. That spirit was true to the end; his organs have been the gift of life for five lucky people. Fisher died unexpectedly on Feb. 20, 2013 after suffering a rare, unexplained and massive stroke. He died with family and loved ones by his side at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It was his 53rd birthday.
Known affectionately as “Mr. Karl,” he joined the staff of the Visual Art Department at The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW) 15 years ago. His energy, humor and friendliness made him a fast favorite among students and peers. Fisher’s students were consistent regional and national scholastic art prizewinners for their drawing, painting and digital collage work. Most recently five of his students received Gold Key Awards.
As a teacher, Fisher balanced the priorities of knowing oneself in the world with technical skills and tools. He sought to instill in his students a “disciplined and inspired hand” matched with a “highly developed sensitivity to one’s own history and experiences,” as the basis for great work. Where there were boundaries between the fields of illustration, graphic design and photography, he created connections, and he embraced the role that technology played as a means, not an end, in that pursuit.
Fisher designed and launched a computer lab, the YUM Lab (“Youth Understanding Media”), and made it a resource for the entire school, hosting courses in music, dance, journalism, science and computer science. Fisher taught traditional and digital art, such as painting, drawing, digital collage, animation, video, design & construction, and an integrated course with the science department called “Flight.” A 3-D design course was in the works.
He worked tirelessly to bring the latest technology to the department, providing students with a variety of tools with which to discover their own expression. He chaired the Visual Arts Department for the last eight years. He produced seven student art shows each year.
Fisher was an artist and athlete. His fervor for physical fitness was an inspiration, as his energy was boundless. He donated afternoons to CSW, leading running and cycling groups and recreational Frisbee.
He was a resident of Jamaica Plain for the last 15 years.
Fisher was born in Rome, N.Y. on February 20, 1960, son of John M. Fisher and Helen Kay (Ross) Fisher. He attended Rome schools and graduated from high school (RFA) in 1978. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Syracuse University in 1984, and a master of fine arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. in 1991. He taught visual arts in the Rome school system; at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y.; at Cazenovia College; and at the New York State Summer School of the Arts. He spent a few years in Seattle, Wash. applying his skills to publishing and graphic design.
Fisher is survived by his parents, John and Helen Fisher; his brother, Grant Fisher; a daughter, Claire Slattery; and the love of his life, Carey McKinley of Jamaica Plain.
To keep his spirit alive, memorial contributions may be made to the Karl Ross Fisher Memorial Fund, Attention: Julie Anne McNary, Director of Development, Cambridge School of Weston, 45 Georgian Road, Weston, MA 02493; or the Rome Art and Community Centre, 308 West Bloomfield St., Rome, NY 13440.