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A Work of Art

Two artistic alumni balance the perfect marriage of love and art

David Peters and Barbara Waterman-Peters posing in their home surrounded by art

(Surrounded by collected art and their own creations, Larry Peters, bfa ’62, and Barbara Waterman-Peters, bfa ’73, h ’16, pose in their home. The three ceramic pieces in the front right are his and the large painting in the rear center is hers. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

From The Ichabod - Spring 2023
By Annie Flachsbarth

As practicing artists of more than 50 years, it’s safe to say art is at the heart of everything for husband and wife, Larry Peters, bfa ’62, and Barbara Waterman-Peters, bfa ’73, h ’16. Together, the pair have built an art-filled life with creative inspiration around every corner – and their impact on Washburn, Topeka and the local art landscape has no end.

In Love and Art

While they both graduated from Washburn University’s art department and were both active in the local art scene, the two didn’t officially meet until 1985 while serving on the board of the Topeka Art Guild (although, Peters is quick to point out he remembered seeing her from across the room at an art show a few years before that). The two became quick friends and met up occasionally to go to art shows in the Kansas City area. A romance quickly budded between the two, though Waterman-Peters admits she was a little clueless to it at first.

“For Valentine’s, he gave me a beautiful collage with a big heart,” she said. “I was honored that he gave it to me because it was a piece of his original art, but the significance didn’t sink in.”

When other gifts and champagne picnics didn’t cue her, Peters took matters into his own hands one night after an art event.

“This poor man, in desperation, reached over and planted a big kiss on my lips, and I finally understood,” she said.

Two months from that first kiss, they were married. Thirty-seven years later, their love and friendship is as strong as ever. While they might quarrel on how to arrange the living room or what is for dinner, they’ve never let an argument cross over into their relationship as colleagues and artists.

“Like almost everybody who’s married, there are points that we clash on sometimes,” he said.

“We’ve always respected each other as artists and friends. And we liked each other's work before we 
got married. So that's sort of sacrosanct,” Waterman-Peters said.

Living in Art

Over the years, the pair has continued to encourage each other to hone their crafts. Primarily working in painting, Waterman-Peters received a master of fine arts from Kansas State University in 1998. She was the staff artist for the Washburn University Theatre from 1999 to 2016. She’s also the co-founder of Pen & Brush Press, where she and author Glendyn Buckley have published several children’s books.

Preferring mediums of clay and collage, Peters has always had a discerning eye for a variety of media. After attending Washburn, he received his master of fine arts from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1965. He worked as the gallery director and was eventually named gallery director emeritus of the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and curator of its permanent collections.

Their masterpieces have been exhibited and can be found in museum, corporate and private collections around the globe. However, the collection they keep in their home is worth the price of admission to any museum. Upon entering, visitors are immediately immersed in a sea of art. Tables, bookshelves and walls are adorned at nearly every surface by something they’ve created or pieces they’ve purchased as collectors. Whether it’s a wall-sized canvas painting Waterman-Peters created while exploring women’s issues or a variety of ceramics pieces and canvases Peters created while studying the Holocaust, they have their own perfectly curated, in-home gallery to share the story of their lives and interests.

Home is Where the Art Is

The two have always been connected to the region and Washburn, even both recently serving as adjunct professors in fall 2022. Their work and dedication to the arts has not gone unnoticed.

In 1990, Peters received the Kansas Governor’s Arts Award for arts advocacy. In 2003, he received a Kansas Museums Association Distinguished Service Award and was named a Washburn University Alumni Fellow. He received the Col. John Ritchie Award by the Washburn Alumni Association in 2009, and in 2016, he received the Glenda Taylor Visual Arts Award from ArtsConnect Topeka.

In 1987, Waterman-Peters was a founding member of The Collective Art Gallery, the gallery which started the First Friday gallery openings in Topeka, which are now the First Friday Artwalks. In 2010, she founded STUDIO 831, an artists’ space and gallery in the North Topeka Arts & Entertainment District. In 2011, she was awarded the ARTY for distinguished visual artist from ArtsConnect Topeka. She received the Lilla Day Monroe Award from the Washburn Alumni Association, and in 2016, she received an honorary doctor of fine arts from Washburn.

And while the two could have gone anywhere, Topeka has always been home.

“We are so closely connected to Washburn. It's been such an integral part of our lives,” she said. “I've lived other places, but you can be a mover and shaker in your own area. There's so much wonderful stuff in Topeka, and Washburn is one of the jewels.”

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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