Jim Gatling to retire after 41 years in education

Art teacher Jim Gatling is retiring from Sacred Heart Catholic School at the end of the school year.

An artist, quilt artist and teacher, Gatling was born in Memphis and grew up on the family farm in Forrest City. He graduated from Forrest City High School in 1969. He was a broom maker, basket weaver and relief potter at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., in 1969 and 1970.

Gatling graduated from State College of Arkansas in Conway with a bachelor of science in education degree in art and music in 1973.

He taught public school art and stitchery for the South Conway County School District at Morrilton High School for 30 years. Gatling is the only quilting teacher sanctioned by the Arkansas State Department of Education. He has taught more than 2,000 children art, needle arts and quilting at Morrilton High School.

For 30 years, the stitchery students of SCCSD have made quilts under the direction of Gatling. The Morrilton School Quilt Collection has more than 50 quilts of all sizes. The award-winning collection has been recognized in local, state and international quilt shows. He has had his personal quilts in exhibitions and he continues to lecture throughout the South.

Gatling has been the artistic director, set designer and costume maker for more than 150 school and plays, musicals and civic productions.

After 25 years, Gatling also retired from the Petit Jean Country Headlight Newspaper in Morrilton where he was a photographer, school and social writer, ad builder and paste-up artist.  He then began teaching K-12 art at Sacred Heart and has been doing so for the past 11 years.

Gatling has been nominated twice for Morrilton’s Citizen of the Year, and nominated for one of President Bush’s “Points of Light” for his community involvement. He has been nominated six times as an “Arkansas Treasure.” He was the South Conway County Teacher of the Year in 1988. He is the past president of the Arkansas Quilters Guild in Little Rock and is a member of the Central Arkansas Quilters in Conway.

He is the father of Blake Gatling, and has a daughter-in-law, Cindy Raper Gatling, and is the grandfather of Maggie and Will of Springfield. He is a son of the late William C. “Bill” and Dot Gatling of Morrilton.

His retirement plans include working in his yard, teaching private art lessons, painting and drawing, sewing and quilting, traveling and spending time with friends and family.