Biographies | Richard Thomas Kane
Not every contributor to our community has lived here. Although Dick Kane does not live in Webster, his work with the Webster Art Club and Webster Central High School night classes yielded one of Webster’s most famous artists: Ward Mann, and inspired countless others to keep creating.
Richard (Dick) Kane was born on April 26, 1931, and lived with his father, mother, and two younger sisters in Rochester’s Nineteenth Ward as a child. His father, Walter, was a full-time fireman, and his mother, Anna, graduated from St. Mary’s School of Nursing, but subsequently managed the family’s household on Arnett Boulevard.
Dick’s interest in art was piqued by some early childhood influences. His father had seen combat in France during World War I, and during that time he had kept a sketchbook with renderings of soldiers. These images made an impression on Dick, whose first drawings centered on World War II airplanes and war scenes.
Active in scouting, Dick was continually outdoors and made several trips to Algonquin Park in Canada, and to the Adirondacks, where he brought his watercolors along. By middle school, he was painting landscapes and moving into more difficult subject matter. An art class he took at Aquinas Institute as a young man encouraged him further. Though it was a low-budget class where their watercolors were made from crepe paper soaked in Mason jars, Dick liked painting so much that he decided to pursue a degree in art from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
While in college, Dick became acquainted with some very talented painters and began painting outdoors. Painting en plein air was a match made in heaven for Dick, as it married his long-time loves of art and nature. But these special years yielded another lifelong match of a more personal nature: at a parish supper, Dick saw his future wife, Rita, at a table across the room. He persuaded his friends to introduce her because he loved her laugh, and it turned out Rita’s friends had been plotting the same introduction.
Upon graduating, Dick and Rita were married in a double wedding ceremony with his younger sister, Pat, and her spouse. Over the years, six children followed, and Dick understood that freelance art was not a viable option to financially support such a large family. After a couple of years spent creating yellow page ads for L. M. Barry Company, and then providing renderings of kitchen designs for Frenchman & Sweet, Dick landed a position at Mobil Chemical in Macedon, New York, where he remained for the rest of his career. As a design manager for the consumer products division, he designed – among other things – packaging for Hefty and Baggies brands.
Though busy with a growing family and a full-time job that required him to travel, Dick found countless ways to include art in his life. While visiting places like New York City, St. Louis, and Aspen on business, Dick would visit art galleries in his spare time. For many years, he was a member of “The Manhattan Group:” local artists who gathered regularly to have lunch and talk about art. He became a member of the Rochester Art Club – which requires juried acceptance from current members – and served as president twice. He gave countless demonstrations and speeches for different groups, including the Webster Art Club, which he cites as one of his favorite groups to work with. He led plein air sessions on the weekends and painting trips abroad to locales such as Provence in France, where he experienced the light that Cezanne and Van Gogh found irresistible. And of course, whenever he could, he returned to the easel in his home studio or outdoors, where his impressionistic style focused on creating landscape paintings.
Dick also began to sell his artwork at the Corn Hill Arts Festival, Canandaigua Waterfront Art Show, and the Clothesline Art Festival in Rochester, which he has participated in for over fifty years now. He has permanent works on display at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble, where he was commissioned to do a mural in the magazine area, and the Chili Senior Center, where his murals adorn their walls. He most recently set up a website to showcase and sell his paintings.
Perhaps one of Dick’s most significant contributions has been to nurture the artistic aspirations of others. Beginning initially with teaching night classes in oil painting through Webster Central High School, and eventually working his way up to teaching intermediate and advanced painting at the Memorial Art Gallery, Dick trained his students first and foremost to observe. Among his Webster students were Mary Rickman, who became an art educator at Keuka College, and Ward Mann, who went on to become a renowned artist of the Rocky Neck Art Community in Massachusetts.
Dick continues to paint, and his mastery of art media is wide: he paints in acrylic, oil, pastel, and watercolor, and says, “all have a different place for me in my work.” He has a preference for nature scenes, especially around the Finger Lakes region. He is a member of the Arts Council of Yates County, the Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters, and the Rochester Art Club. By his own estimation, he has sold thousands of paintings, though he cautions, “it is hard to define success.” Even after so many years, Kane knows that he needs to continue learning and says he does not feel as if he’s “arrived.” “If you feel like you have, that’s damn boring. And you tend to slack off…slacking off would be very boring.”
Those who have met Dick Kane may chuckle at the notion that he is even capable of slacking off. His passion for expressing himself through art, enjoying the natural world around him, and a constant desire to learn, have guided his life’s work. With his wife, Rita, who still frames his paintings, and his children, who are proud to support his artistic passion, Dick has led a rich life. Prolific and popular in the Rochester community, Dick’s artwork, with its use of vibrant colors and brushstrokes, communicates the joy that has driven him to create for ninety years and counting.
- “Artists Draw Upon Peers for Support,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 29 January, 1997, Our Town p. 1.
- “Arts fest organizer is noted local painter,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 8 April, 1998, p. 5F.
- “Chili Seniors Have A Valuable Resource,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 10 May, 2006, p. 1, Our Town.
- “Have Easel, Will Travel,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 3 September, 2006, p. 3C.
- Kane, Richard T. Interview by Carrie A. Waldarek, 27 November, 2020.
- Kane, Richard T. Interview by Carrie A. Waldarek, 16 July, 2021.
- Kane, Richard T. Interview by Carrie A. Waldarek, 28 September, 2021.
- “Lintz-Kane, Kane-Brown,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 28 November, 1958, p. 17.
- “New and Notable,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 6 April, 1997, p. 1.
- “Opening Friday, Austin Harvard Gallery,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 29 March, 1996, p. 8B.
- “Painters’ Tour of France Still Has Openings,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 31 January, 1996, p. 10E.
- Photo, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 26 March, 2006, p. 15H.
- “Sweet First In Rochester Kitchen Modernization Plan. HotPoint Appliances,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 17 March, 1957, LI ad.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 1940 U.S. Census.
- “Waterfront Fest Gives Out Awards,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 25 August, 1993, p. 1, Our Town.