Jim Loso recalled as teacher who made art, and just about everything else, fun

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Jim Loso, the longtime Elk River art teacher who died Nov. 16, is recalled as a lovable, talented renegade by a longtime colleague, Harvey Schroeder.

When Loso arrived here in 1973, he was having some difficulty with the senior high administration, so he arranged with Principal Ron Gaarder to join the junior high faculty, teaching pottery and jewelry, said Schroeder.

Jim Loso, longtime ERHS arts teacher and skilled potter, died at age 71 on Nov. 16.

“I was intrigued by Loso’s ceramic skills and his ability to relate to kids, and was delighted to team-teach with him,” said Schroeder.

They were fast friends and co-conspirators from the start. Loso was always up to something, Schroeder said.

There was the great chicken hawk caper, for instance.

With an order of art supplies, they found a box of pins with a bird on them that looked like a chicken hawk. These items had not been ordered, but there they were.

“Most people would have just thrown them out,” said Schroeder, “but Loso said, ‘We’ve got to do something with these.’ ”

Loso decided that the two of them should tell the kids that the School Board was replacing the Elk mascot with chicken hawks. Both pretended to be irate, suggesting that the students protest. Anti-chicken hawk posters were created by the kids and hung in the halls. Word spread throughout the school, and, alas, the kids started calling their parents with the unsettling “news.”

By noon, Superintendent Zabee was getting heated phone calls from parents. Zabee directed  Gaarder to get to the bottom of it and the two art teachers had to straighten it out.

Another time, Loso decided they should fill up Gaarder’s office with trash items, newspapers, boxes, anything they could find. They literally had to press the door shut, up against all the refuse.

Eagerly anticipating that  Gaarder would throw a fit, they were crushed when he acted as though nothing had happened — not knowing Gaarder had revenge plotted.

“Next morning, we found several chickens in our art room, and chicken poop all over the place!”

Such was life, said Schroeder, teaching alongside Jim Loso.

Above all, though, Loso could inspire and reach kids of all stripes.

“You could give him a room full of juvenile delinquents,” Schroeder claimed, “and they’d all want to work with him and have fun making art. He was an amazing teacher.”

All the while, Loso was always creating his next beautiful pot or vase.

“Even when he’d be talking to the class, he’d always have something in his hands that he was working on.”

The St. Cloud native was renowned in his hometown’s art community as a potter, showing in numerous shows and fairs in the Upper Midwest, and more recently in Florida during the winter months. His artwork can be found in many galleries and collections.

“Jim Loso was an amazing man, a gifted artist and a superb teacher,” said Schroeder. “He will be truly missed.”

Loso, survived by wife, Jean, and son, Jay, and his wife, Genevieve, and a brother and sister, was living in St. Joseph in retirement.

His obit from Daniel Funeral Home in St. Joseph included the tribute, “He was a multiple award-winning artist throughout his art career, and leaves behind a legacy in the form of many students who have become practicing artists and art instructors themselves.”