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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Former ODU Art Instructor, Sculptor Rita Marie Marlier Dies at 86

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Rita Marie Marlier, a former instructor in the Old Dominion University Department of Art and a sculptor who was active in the local art community, has died. She was 86.

Marlier, who came to Norfolk from Pittsburgh in the late 1960s, taught for 28 years at Old Dominion before retiring in 1995. She was still active with the department when Peter Eudenbach, associate professor and chair, came to the University.

"Rita was well liked and remained involved in the art department even after retiring," Eudenbach said. "I got to know her when I first joined the art department in 2003. As a junior faculty member who had just arrived from New York City, Rita's warm and welcoming disposition helped me feel at home here."

Long-time art professor Ken Daley, who retired in May, said Marlier was a good friend of the Department of Art. "Her specialty was clay, and she did many figurative pieces, although her style often led her into abstraction," he said.

Daley added that Marlier was typical of many instructors in the department, maintaining strong ties to the local art community, and bringing those experiences into the classroom for Old Dominion's students.

Marlier's work has been exhibited for the past four decades, and is visible throughout the region. Notable pieces include two ceramic figures installed in Chesapeake's Major Hillard Library. Her large, bronze-cast sculpture "Read to Me" is housed outside the library entrance. It was cast in collaboration with Kevin Gallup at the Old Dominion University foundry.

The Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission was one of the donors that commissioned the piece, which was dedicated at the opening of the library.

According to a Sept. 20 obituary in The Virginian-Pilot, Marlier was the first woman to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with a master's degree in sculpture.

Friend Marian Huber said that Marlier, who briefly married before moving to Norfolk and never had children, regularly welcomed a diverse cast of visitors to her Willoughby Spit home.

"She was a really special human being. She wasn't just an artist. She was much, much more," Huber told The Pilot.