Illustrator Matt Kish’s anticipated visit draws attention

By Kailee Mathias

A student-driven American Studies conference is held in anticipation of Matt Kish visiting OU.  

The American Studies program of the English Department held a conference of student presentations leading up to keynote speaker, Matt Kish, illustrator of Moby Dick.

The student-driven conference was set up into various panels examining different topics and time frames. Some of the topics presented consisted of the conquest in America, colonial conquest and settlement, Civil War era transformations, Native American representations in early America. Students presented on film such as “King Kong” and “Gone with the Wind.”

A student-driven affair

“It’s amazing what students can do when they get the opportunity,” Andrea Knutson, American Studies faculty advisor said. “This conference is an extraordinary example of student initiative.”

Knutson, teacher of Early American Literature, presented her English 317 class with the opportunity to get involved with the program. Benjamin Peterson, an English major seized the opportunity.

“I’m excited this is my first ever speaking thing at Oakland, and I feel very positive about it,” Peterson said.  “I know these people are interested, so it makes it fun when people can relate and be excited about what you’re presenting.”

Peterson’s presentation examined how early European colonists established identities and how those identities influenced American identity today and can still be seen in today’s culture. He focused primarily on one of the settlers, John Smith, and also made references to the Disney film, “Pocahontas.”

“It can be portrayed as a romantic Disney film but it can also be portrayed as very dark,” Peterson said. “The dark side of the moon for this is we are able to be here, but it came at the cost of the Native American’s homeland.”

Matt Kish

The event attracted a variety of majors. Each student presenting worked with a professor in their discipline to prepare for their speech. It involved networking throughout several departments.

“They are enthusiastic and dedicated to their college work,” Knutson said. “It requires a great deal of dedication, organization and forethought to carry off a conference like this.”

Julia Dorey’s enthusiasm is what originally prompted the idea of bringing Matt Kish as the keynote speaker. Dorey’s inspiration came from attending the conference last year, where she first saw images created by Matt Kish. After buying the book and studying some of his works she suggested bringing him to Oakland to speak.

“He’s been promising if I bring the book, he’ll draw me a little picture,” Dorey said.

Kish was also interacting on the event Facebook page with students before his arrival at Oakland.

“Most amazing thing about Matt Kish coming to visit, aside from his presentation alone, is that I can’t wait to hear what kind of dedication it takes to draw a picture for every single page of Moby Dick,” Knutson said.