The Art of Giving

Inspiring the next generation of artists and creators

Producing art is a passion. Teaching art is a privilege. Ensuring future generations of promising artists have the opportunity to learn and grow? That’s a legacy.

And it’s what has led renowned artist and teacher Bob Rankin ’70 to give back to the university that opened up a world of possibility to a young man with a dream.

A Raleigh native, Rankin joked he didn’t exactly “set the world on fire” as a Broughton High School student. Math and science were just distractions that kept him from doing what he loved: exploring colors and mediums as a burgeoning young artist.

“ECU gave me a chance to prove myself as a student, and for that I’m forever grateful,” Rankin said. “I loved the teaching, the community and the one-on-one connections I made at ECU. It was a whole new world for me.”

After graduating with a degree in art education, Rankin had a long and successful career as a high school art teacher. He spent 25 years at Sanderson High School in Raleigh – bringing national acclaim to the school through the National Scholastic Art Awards and earning it a reputation as one of the area’s leading art programs.

As a mixed media artist, his work can be abstract or dimensional – and sometimes a marriage of the two. But one common strand within his work? Color.

“I’m a colorist – and am never afraid of using color,” Rankin said. “Beyond that, I’m always trying new things. I have a low tolerance for boredom. I work through series I’ll enter into juried shows, series I’ll produce for galleries and then of course I’m always changing what I have displayed in my home studio.”

Since leaving Sanderson in 2000, teaching has remained a large part of his life. “I’ve been able to teach workshops all over the world. I spent several summers in Italy teaching workshops at the La Romita School of Art in a renovated 16th century monastery in the middle of oil groves and vineyards,” Rankin said. “Having locals bring in lunches, along with carafes of local red and white wine on each table, was an incredible experience.”

Rankin hopes he can pass that same love of art and teaching to new generations of ECU students. In addition to his longtime scholarship support to the School of Art and Design, Rankin has a planned gift to create the Robert George Rankin IV Scholarship, which will support art and design students, with priority given to those studying painting and art education.

“I look at it this way: I’ve been able to make some money producing artwork that’s allowed me to take care of my family. Now it’s time for me to provide others with the same wonderful opportunity I’ve had,” Rankin said. “What better legacy could I leave than giving someone else the gift of education?”