Marcia Kort Buike of Tega Cay strives to learn and gain new perspectives.
Buike, 64, studied the stories behind war-time art and the artists who created it during an art history graduate class at Winthrop University. Buike took the class 43 years after she received her undergraduate degree in languages from Michigan State University.
She took the class tuition-free, thanks to a program offered through the university open to South Carolina residents ages 60 and older. Seniors must apply for the program and can take classes as long as there are open seats, said Katie Sardelli, director of military, adult and transfer services at Winthrop.
“Through the state, we are eligible to offer our students this opportunity,” Sardelli said. “We value a diverse perspective in our classrooms, and find our students can bring real-world examples to classes and enrich the experience for the student body.”
Buike said the mix of students in her 10-person class brought a new view to discussions.
“It was helpful for the class to have a mix of ages,” she said.
Taking the class started as something to talk about with her husband, but Buike said she has gained a new perspective on art, history and culture. She uses that new outlook in her own art.
“It’s so interesting to meet these young people who are brave enough to pursue a career as an artist,” she said. “A whole new world opened to me.”
Buike learned how war affected the art movement, especially in Europe.
“They really experienced the devastation of World War I and II,” she said. “They took that and found a way to express it. It changed my way of painting, because I wanted to put more personal meaning into my work.”
The class wasn’t always easy for Buike, who decided to go for a letter grade.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “My first test, I panicked. I was nervous and felt I was put on the spot.”
Buike said she thought about quitting after she earned a C on her first test, but she decided to refocus on why she was there.
“It’s supposed to be fun,” she said. “Cavemen painted for a reason, you don’t have to draw realistic renderings of what you are seeing; art is inside of you.”
Buike got an A on her first paper and finished the class with a B+.
“That made me want to work even harder,” she said. “It made me very excited. I gained confidence in myself that hadn’t been there before.”
Seniors can choose to take classes toward a degree or attend as non-degree seeking students, and audit classes or receive a letter grade, Sardelli said. The department encourages applicants to apply for classes in the semester before they wish to enroll.
Sardelli said there are, on average, about 80 seniors taking classes at Winthrop each semester.
Whether its art or something else, Buike encourages others to go after a passion.
“The class completely changed my life,” she said. “I was rejuvenated.”