Mark MoakAnd the Beat Goes On

Every rock star has a secluded summer home – a fortress of solitude where they escape to recharge.

Mark Moak, RMC professor of art, may as well be Ringo Starr.

He’s got the rock star thing down, playing drums in a popular Billings band, The Midlife Chryslers.

“We have a lot of fun, and it’s great to still be playing at this age,” he says. “Truthfully, I don’t feel that different than when I was 18, and it’s my hope we never take ourselves too seriously.”

Lighthearted about his ‘rock star status,' Mark may not think he’s on par with Ringo Starr, but he still enjoys the secluded summers away.

Volunteering for 17 years in Arizona’s Bear Mountains and the past 14 years in Montana’s Bitterroots, Mark and his family take in the calm solitude of observing nature from a watchtower. And while some summers offer less calm than others, Mark finds even the most challenging fire activity an inspiration to his art.

Because rock star or not, Mark Moak’s true passion is teaching. 

“Teaching is the most important thing I do at RMC,” he says. “Yes, you need to be on committees and do the business of the College, but the one sacred thing I do here is teach." 

As a student, Mark attended Valdosta State College and transferred to the University of Georgia his junior year. Connecting with a professor who was “a curmudgeon of a guy,” Mark scored a graduate teaching assistant position and discovered his love for teaching.

“Sometimes you need people that will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear,” he says. “He led me places I might not have gone otherwise.”

After graduation, Mark taught for six years at Mohave Community College in Kingsman, Arizona, and for three years at Brewton-Park College outside of Vidalia, Georgia, before finding his place at RMC, where he has been leading students for 24 years. 

“At RMC, I have the freedom to pursue so many different things,” Mark says. “This, to me, is where true teaching happens; where you have a variety of individuals who come with a variety of gifts, or lack of them at times, and you get to work with these folks and see them transformed in front of you. That is the part of the paycheck you don’t see.”

Moak is transforming his students – through trips to the vibrant cultures of Greece, Egypt, and Italy and journeys to Yellowstone – immersing them in the seclusion of his natural fortress.

Whether at home or abroad, Mark wants his students to be aware of the relevance of art and art history in their lives. 

“I want students to be aesthetically aware,” he says. “Not everyone in my classes will pursue art as a profession, but we can help to create educated consumers and viewers; those that come for other majors can pursue art and other courses and won’t leave here one-dimensional people.”

And RMC’s art students are definitely leaving with a multi-dimensional education – the result of learning from Mark Moak: art professor by day, rock star by night.