I recently read an article by world renowned painter David Salle in which he explained one of the things that is most valuable to him. It is a painting by Wichitan William Dickerson. Salle grew up in Wichita and painters Bill Dickerson and his wife Betty were both Mr. Salle’s art teachers at the Wichita Art Association. Bill had turned down a chance to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago in order to return to Wichita and begin teaching in 1931.
David Salle gives a great amount of credit to the Dickersons for advancing his ideas on creating art and art theory as a teenager. This couple opened the world up to a quiet and sensitive Salle. They allowed him to hang out at their small house where all the cultural scene makers of the day would get together to talk art, politics, travel, and music. Some of those artists included Black Bear Bosin, poet Irma Wasall, and actor/director Mary Jane Teall. The Dickersons were great painters themselves, with Bill not simply lecturing his classes but drawing from live models right along with his students. Salle went on to explain that Betty Dickerson was “bright, fearless, ferociously verbal, and combined a pioneer’s ideal of self-reliance and suspicion of authority with an urbanite’s sophistication and style”.
Bill retired from the center in 1971 and died in 1972. Betty Dickerson continued on teaching until well into her 80s. Also, importantly, other students of theirs rose to prominence, sculptor Tom Otterness and painter James Gross. Bill and Betty Dickerson greatly propelled the artistic cause here in Wichita. As a community we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The Dickersons should never be forgotten.