Biographical Narrative

Rick Mitchell is an independent artist, photographer and writer currently living in Lawrence, Kansas. He earned a BFA in Painting at the University of Kansas in 1972, where he studied with Roger Shimomura, Robert Price and Peter Thompson, and an MFA in Art from Rutgers University in 1974, where he worked with John Goodyear and was a studio assistant to Fluxus artist Robert Watts. In 1974 he became, with fellow Rutgers graduate Phil Orenstein and others, a founding member of the Amos Eno Cooperative Gallery in New York City, where he showed his work. He was also a frequent exhibitor, with Watts, at the New York Avant Garde Festival and at the performance art venue, The Kitchen, during the 1970s. Also during this period, he was the first photographer, and established the studio and laboratory, for the Rutgers Archaeological Survey Office under Joel Grossman.

In his last year of graduate school, Mitchell’s interest turned increasingly from the art to the science of photography. From 1974 to 1979, he availed himself of every opportunity to enhance his understanding of the techniques and history of the medium. He audited the history of photography classes taught by Peter Bunnell at Princeton University, and was accepted into an advanced photography seminar at Princeton conducted by photographer Emmet Gowin and visiting artist Frederick Sommer. He took a course in view camera photography from Tom Carabasi at The Photographer’s Place in Philadelphia, after which he purchased his first large format camera, a 1938 wooden Deardorf 8X10 field camera.

From 1974 to 1992, he taught photography at Rutgers University where the program he developed in photography and visual communication was ranked by an outside accrediting team as among the top four or five in the country. Continuing his interest in interdisciplinary studies, he served in the Graduate School, and the departments of Art, Humanities & Communication, and Journalism. He was an advisor to the photographic research conducted by his former student, Victor Caldarola of the University of Pennsylvania, on the Indonesian Duck Egg Industry, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. During this time, he began collecting historical glass plate photographic negatives on the themes of early agricultural science and rural life. His collection of over 20,000 glass plates made between 1880 and 1930 became, along with the antique tool and implement collections of Agricultural Engineering Professor Wabun Kreiger, the basis for the founding of the Agricultural Museum of the State of New Jersey, of which Mitchell was the founding board treasurer and first Executive Director. A major exhibition of prints from the plates was held at the New Jersey State Museum in the early 1980s and other exhibitions were mounted throughout the state, at the Philadelphia Science Center and at the agricultural museum itself. During this time, Mitchell became a member of the Photographic Materials Group of the American Institute of Conservation and conducted research with PMG members Debbie Hess Norris, of the Winterthur Art Conservation program at the University of Delaware, Gary Albright of the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts, and Holly Maxson a Philadelphia based curator and conservator. He also worked with John Schlebecker of the Smithsonian Institution and Wayne Rasmussen, historian at the United States Department of Agriculture, on the establishment of his glass plate collection as a national resource. In the late 1980s Mitchell joined a team of Rutgers researchers, including professors Grant Walton and Robert Duell, who were preparing a forest conservation plan for the Panama Canal Watershed. Mitchell photographically documented deforestation in the region which was used in a United States AID proposal for mediation and reforestation.

In the summer of 1992, Mitchell returned to his home town of Lawrence, Kansas where he began teaching the history of photography in the graduate program of Baker University. In 1993, he took the additional position of Director of the Gallery and Special Programs at the Lawrence Art Center, where he remained for sixteen years overseeing the development of over 240 exhibitions and participated in the planning and design of a new multi-million dollar facility. He taught photojournalism at the University of Kansas in 1996 and again taught at the University from 2009 to 2011 in the Art Department as an adjunct professor of drawing and painting. While at the Arts Center he was for five years the publisher of Cottonwood Review, a literary journal collaboratively produced by the Arts Center and the University of Kansas Department of English. This led to the creation of, with Paul Hotvedt and Laurie Ward, the Committee on Imagination & Place, which conducted two national conferences, mounted exhibitions and organized a variety of unique interdisciplinary educational events. In the mid-2000s I&P also established the I&P Press which produced a number of publications on themes related to the human imagination and Place. In 2009, Mitchell and Ward incorporated Imagination & Place, Inc as a free standing non-profit organization. Imagination & Place Press publications

Starting in 1986 and continuing to the present, Mitchell has been an advocate of Waldorf education and has had a role in the establishment and governance of the Waldorf School of Princeton (New Jersey), the Waldorf Association of Greater Kansas City, and the Waldorf Association of Lawrence which operates the Prairie Moon Waldorf School in Lawrence, Kansas. He has served continuously on Waldorf boards for thirty-two years, and, in 2008, established the Okanis Garden, a biodynamic market garden at the Prairie Moon Waldorf School in collaboration with the Community Mercantile Grocery & Deli and with the support of the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund of the Douglas County (KS) Community Foundation. Leadership in establishing organic gardening in schools led to Prairie Moon being among the first three official “Kansas Green Schools” by the Kansas Association of Environmental Education.


University of Kansas: BFA 1972
Rutgers University: MFA 1974 (Graduate Teaching Fellow 1973 – 1974)
Princeton University: Studies in History of Photography 1977 – 1979
Drexel University: Course in Architecture 1981

Professional Photographer 1974 – present
Adjunct Professor of Drawing and Painting University of Kansas 2009 – 2011
Director of the Exhibition Program Lawrence Arts Center 1993 – 2009
Professor , School of Graduate and Professional Studies Baker University 1994 – 1996,
Adjunct Professor William Allen White School of Journalism, University of Kansas 1996
Visiting Lecturer, Art Department, University of Kansas semi-annually 1996 – 2009
Professor of Photography Rutgers University 1974 – 1992
Executive Director of The Agricultural Museum of the State of New Jersey at Rutgers University 1990 – 1992 Faculty Faculty, Ocean County Community College, 1974 – 1975
Faculty, Peddie School, Hightstown, N.J. 1975 – 1976

Non-Profit Organizations:
Co-founder and President of the Board, Imagination & Place Inc. 2009 – present
Founding Treasurer of the Board, The Agricultural Museum of the State of New Jersey 1983 – 1990 Executive Director 1990 – 1992
Board member, Waldorf School of Princeton (New Jersey) 1986 – 1992, Co-Chair of the Board and CEO 1991 – 1992
Board member, Kansas Land Trust 1995 – 2001 Secretary 1998 – 2001
Board Member, Oread Friends Meeting 1994 – 1995, Treasurer 1995
Boar member and Founder, Waldorf Association of Greater Kansas City 1993 – 1996
Bored member and Founder, Waldorf Association of Lawrence/Prairie Moon Waldorf School 1996 – 1998, 2007 – Present;

Grants – Individual Recipient or Program Director
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
National Science Foundation
New Jersey Arts Commission
New Jersey Historical Commission
Kansas Arts Commission
Kansas Health Foundation
Lawrence Arts Commission
Douglas County Community Foundation Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund

Helen Hoover Award for Design, University of Kansas (1970)
Ward Lockwood Award, Art Department, University of Kansas (1971, 1972)
Presidential Merit Awards for excellence in Teaching, Rutgers University (1982, 1986)
Brad Willis Teaching Award, Baker University 1996
Phoenix Award, Lawrence Arts Commission 2003
Phoenix Award, Lawrence Arts Commission 2016 (Imagination & Place Inc.)