The week of Feb. 11-15 is North Carolina’s School Bus Driver Appreciation Week (or “Love the Bus” Week), and each day one of our dedicated drivers will be introduced to the HCPS family.
It was the mountains that brought accomplished artist Gary Kutch to Western North Carolina, but kismet landed him at Atkinson Elementary in 2013.
Kutch first moved from Orlando to a house on top of a mountain in 2000, creating his reverse paintings on glass that had gained acclaim in the art world. Practicing the 17th Century Chinese technique, Kutch’s skill is demonstrated in a video that’s in the permanent collection of the Rakow Library of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State.
When Kutch’s father suffered complications from his hip replacement surgery, Kutch returned to Florida to care for him, then returned to Western North Carolina in 2007.
“I came back and found another place on top of a mountain,” Kutch said.
After a few years in WNC, Kutch had sold more than 100 pieces of his artwork in the Hendersonville and Black Mountain areas, but began looking for part-time work to supplement his art.
“The man I leased from was a bus driver,” and informed Kutch that Atkinson Elementary was looking for a bus driver. “He said, ‘They need to hire somebody by Monday,’” Kutch said.
“I went down and talked to the principal,” said Kutch. “I went in on Friday and started on Monday.”
And he’s been driving for Atkinson ever since.
“I haven’t missed a single run in that entire time,” said Kutch.
“He is dedicated, dependable and wonderful with the kids,” said Atkinson’s data manager, Cindi Hipp. “They think a lot of him.”
As a bus driver transporting Exceptional Children students with special needs, Kutch works with all grade levels, and does everything from driving to securing preschoolers in their seats to getting wheelchairs on and off his bus safely. He also enjoys chatting with his students, to help keep them calm while riding.
“Sometimes all it takes is communication,” Kutch said. “Just showing them some attention will keep them calm and collected.”
When he’s not driving his bus routes, Kutch still paints a bit, though he’s not churning out the three paintings a month he used to. “Nowadays I do two or three every summer when school is out,” he said.
He’s still got a fan following, though, including several Atkinson staff members – like Hipp – who ask to see his new work each year.
“I have a couple (pieces) in my home and love them,” she said.
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer