Battle with cancer catalyst to achieving dreams for local artist

MARQUETTE — Sometimes, surviving the battle isn’t the lone positive outcome of a struggle with cancer.

As one Northern Michigan University professor shows, the crisis itself can be the catalyst to taking risks and achieving dreams. Every work of art tells a story, but sometimes more interesting than the work of art is the person behind it. Brian Kakas is a cancer survivor and a ceramic artist.

“I’ve touched clay every day, seven days a week for twenty–three years,” says the school’s Associate Ceramics Professor.

Art is not a lucrative business. It’s a risk to get involved. But diagnosed with cancer at just seventeen years old, Kakas became a yes man.

“I didn’t have a problem taking a chance at living with a backpack and a toolbox. I didn’t have anything more in my pocket than a plane ticket out of the country I was in.”

Often times, it takes a crisis to push us to make the trip; to see the places we want to see.

“The way it started out with my love of clay was that I had a high school teacher that when I couldn’t attend high school because of my recovery, she brought me clay. So that was this material that kept me engaged.”

By the time he returned to the classroom, his love of the arts had been confirmed; leading to his focus on degrees in material science and his opportunity to travel the world. “I’ve lived out of the states for over a decade; traveling around China (and) Australia. Most recently, I’ve done a lot of projects in Eastern Europe.”

Kakas had a work of art on display at last week’s DeVos Center art show, North of the 45th; an expressionistic sculpture inspired by his past ailments, driven by thousands of images from MRIs to cat–scans. Another silver lining to his struggle in abstract form.