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Tuesday December 8, 2009

KYM PRUESSE

Teacher, artist, activist, sister, loving auntie, godmother, friend. Born Jan. 14, 1961, in Vancouver. Died June 18 in Toronto of acute pancreatitis, aged 48.

At 5, Kym Pruesse was determined to become a cowboy. One summer day she jumped onto the back of a cow, kicked its sides and yelled, "Yeeeha!" The offended cow tossed its unexpected cargo head over heels, and Kym had to run for her life.

Kym did not grow up to be a cowboy, but throughout her life demonstrated the ability to take the shortest path between goals and action.

Stubborn, fiery, intelligent - these are not qualities in infants that ensure an easy time for new young parents. Kym later informed her four younger siblings that they were indebted to her as the beneficiaries of her parent training. It was clear to everyone that her childhood hometown of Penetanguishene, Ont., was only a temporary habitat. Her personality was too large, her spirit too restless - she knew there was a whole world out there to explore.

Although Kym earned a scholarship to study at the University of British Columbia in 1980, the urge to travel struck after a year. It was still uncommon for a young woman to travel alone in rural India and South America, but she spent two years in each. She returned a changed person. While she had always been activist-oriented, her experiences abroad left an indelible mark, and for the rest of her life she spoke out for human rights and particularly women's rights.

Kym next threw herself into an education in art, earning degrees at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. While studying, she was welding, painting, glass-blowing - always creating art and giving it away to others.

Though loved and loving, Kym's shadow side was equally deep. She was vulnerable to depression and periods of alienation. She lived by herself with two cats, however her house was often filled with friends, family and occasional strangers in need of shelter.

Kym started teaching at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1994. A dynamic lecturer and supporter of her students' education and careers, Kym also made time to become a chief negotiator for faculty and students when the school became a degree-granting institution.

She curated shows in Toronto through Mercer Union and YYZ Gallery, emphasizing community engagement and often revealing her quirky sense of humour. She believed art was for everyone. OCAD has since honoured her with the Kym Pruesse Memorial Scholarship.

Kym was complex, complicated and often challenged those around her to think profoundly and creatively. We who loved her will not forget her struggles or her sense of fun and laughter.

Gara, Niko and Nina Pruesse are Kym's sisters.

SUBMISSIONS: LIVES@GLOBEANDMAIL.COM

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