January 17, 1937 – March 30, 2023

Shirley Ann Luke Schnell of Lee’s Summit

Shirley Ann Luke Schnell passed away in Independence, Missouri, on March 30, 2023. She was 86.

Shirley was born in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, on January 17, 1937, to Hjalmar and Dorothy Ruth (Ledwein) Luke. She attended Saint Charles Borromeo grade school and St. Margaret’s Academy in downtown Minneapolis, graduating in June 1955.

Shirley earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in 1958 and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 1963.

After graduation from Yale Shirley taught at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. In 1961 Shirley married Lloyd William Schnell. The couple moved to Kansas City in 1966 and both began teaching at Kansas City Art Institute. In 1976 they made their home at Raintree Lake in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Shirley’s passion for teaching truly blossomed in the Foundations department at Kansas City Art Institute, where she worked with a talented group of faculty artists who ultimately became her second family. Shirley retired from KCAI in 2008 after 42 years.

Her work has been shown throughout the United States and in Canada, Japan, and Ireland. She exhibited at the Invitational Easter at the White House in 1987. Her work resides in the permanent collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and at the State Historical Society of Missouri. She was the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Shirley was recognized by colleagues for taking her teaching as seriously as her own creativity, for generously supporting them, and for committing herself to laying the foundation for the next generation of artists. Shirley’s serious classroom demeanor belied a kind, gentle, sensitive, and understanding woman. Her students admired her for her curiosity, creativity, and patience, and her commitment to their creative development. She was at times whimsical and eccentric, and it was said she sometimes seemed on the verge of levitating above the studio. When exuberant, she would say things like, “I’m just so tree happy!” With friends and family she exhibited a deep kindness, a gentle spirit, curiosity, and creativity. She was loved for her willingness to share ideas, concerns, and adventures; her total presence in conversation; and her ability to speak of and to all people with respect. She had a boundless gratitude for life and an immeasurable affection for her cats.

Shirley loved her family dearly and always received them with great anticipation and delight. She was cherished by her sisters and brothers-in-law, and adored by her nieces and nephew.

Shirley is survived by her sisters, Marian Dolores Luke, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Caryll Luke (Alan) Cram, of Fort Collins, Colorado, and by a nephew and nieces: David (Tammy) Collom, Shari (Mark) Wilson, Marri (Ted) Collom, Joy Peeraer, Alanna (Alan) Prater, and Wendy (Isaac) Hepworth, as well as several grand- and great-grand nieces and nephews. Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, Lloyd Schnell.

A celebration of life will be held on June 29, 2023 between 2pm and 5pm at Unity Village, Fillmore Chapel.