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Alumni Teaching the Arts

The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, tucked into the heart of downtown Greenville, hosts a myriad of talented and well-trained faculty who are dedicated to mentoring high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, immersing them in the arts with classes on dance, music, visual arts, drama and creative writing. Students work closely with mentors, who pass down their own experiences and teach self-discipline, respect, time management, resilience, professionalism and empathy.

The Governor’s School highlights an amazing reciprocal relationship with Clemson. Many graduates of the school later become Clemson students, and there are more than a few Clemson alumni who serve as teachers and/or staff members. The Visual Arts Department, in particular, boasts a few faculty members who all have something in common: a master’s degree from Clemson.

 

 

Marty Epp-Carter M ’09
MFA in visual arts, emphasis in printmaking
Teaches printmaking, drawing and visual language

Why is learning about art and developing artistic skills important for students?

“When an artist makes a piece of art, they are expressing themselves by solving a problem. This requires communication skills, and communication requires a clear and agreed-upon language. Students are learning to express themselves, work independently, meet deadlines, hone eye-hand coordination skills, pay attention to nuance and honor the tiniest details. They also develop the discipline it takes to follow through, despite mistakes and challenges.”

 

 

Cary Perkins M ’04
Master of Architecture
Teaches architecture 

How did Clemson help prepare you for your current career?

“One of my Clemson professors once said that a design education prepares you for any career path — every industry is improved by rigorous problem-solving through creative thinking. That perspective has shaped my thinking in many ways and is something I strive to share with my students, along with teaching them to focus on visually communicating, self-editing and constantly questioning.”

 

 

David Gerhard M ’13
MFA in visual arts, emphasis in printmaking
Chair of the Visual Arts Department; teaches drawing, graphic design and art history and also teaches graphic design at Clemson

What do you hope students and other schools will learn from the Governor’s School?

“We are a resource for all students and teachers across South Carolina. The Governor’s School is a model for what can be done under ideal circumstances. Something I hope my students take away is how to balance doing so many things at once. I teach them time management, how to push through when you don’t feel like you’re being creative anymore, discipline and how to take criticism. I also make sure I am being very practical while still allowing students to have that joy of creative work.”

 

 

Joseph Thompson M ’98
MFA in visual arts, emphasis in sculpture
Teaches sculpture, drawing and 3D design

How has COVID-19 affected the way you teach?

“COVID-19 has shifted the emphasis of my teaching practice from providing students with lessons in materials, processes and poetics to partnering with them in the investigation of those things. Students have less access to equipment and facilities, but their connection to their work as their work has never been greater. Students are seeing themselves as partners in their own education, something that has always been a marker of our department but is now being emphasized more than ever.”

 

 

Collaborative Community

Asked how she could help her community, associate professor of scenic design Shannon Robert, came up with a simple idea that soon turned a group of virtual strangers into a small community.

On a normal day, the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts is alive with theatrical productions, music concerts and other cultural opportunities for students, faculty, alumni and community members. Last spring, with the industry shut down for people’s safety, Robert was one of the many people who brainstormed program ideas to help keep the community connected and engaged during this time. Her idea stemmed from studios that offer wine and paint nights.

Initially, Robert’s first Tuesday night paint night on April 21 began with current students but its success led to its expansion to the Brooks Center audience after an invite was sent out. Every Tuesday since, Robert has stationed her laptop in front of her home workspace and taught virtual class members how to create different works of art. Participants range in age from 12 to 80 and from student to faculty to alumni to Tiger fan.

Robert’s goal was to lead group painting sessions that were quick and relatively easy for those of any skill level. Robert said, “It became clear that people want to continue doing this, so I think we can probably learn something along the way.” She began to incorporate mini lessons on things like cubism, scumbling or impressionism. She also wanted to teach participants about the value of painting and to not be afraid — to just do it. Robert recognizes that most people are fearful to show their work or even begin painting because they worry it won’t look good. However, she reminds people that after sitting down to a first piano lesson, no one will walk away playing like Horowitz. She described it as “a process” and told the group to “just enjoy where you are in the process, and don’t be afraid. You have to be fearless when you are creating.”

Eventually, the Tuesday-night painting group turned into a small community of regulars who began to connect with each other, despite the virtual distance. Robert compared it to a quilting group, a fun space where people can sit around to chat and catch up. “I have bonded with so many of these people,” she said. “We talk about recipes, movies, television shows and music. It’s really nice to see everyone having conversations with people they would usually never talk to.”

There were, of course, challenges along the way. Most stores were shut down or, at the very least, limiting hours. Participants had to get creative with the materials they used and where they got them. Some had limited funds to buy the paint, paint brushes, canvases and palettes necessary. Robert also described figuring out the angle to position her camera as a learning curve. She wanted to be sure everyone could see what she was painting in as much detail as she could. Her paint-splattered laptop is proof of her dedication to making these nights as doable and fun as possible.

As the weeks went on, an idea began to emerge. With the number of regulars the meetings were soon beginning to have, Robert thought a collaborative project would be easy to accomplish. She painted a piece and cut it into 16 parts to send to 16 contributors. Each person would have no idea what the painting looked like as a whole, nor how their piece would incorporate into the final. Their task was to replicate their section as accurately as they could, in whatever medium they desired. The contributors ended up using charcoal, oil pastels, acrylic and latex to complete their sections.

The decision to create the piece in black and white was a practical one. Robert knew not everyone might have a color printer, and she knew painting in white and shades of black would be easier to color match for new painters. Painters completed their sections on their own or with the help of friends and family members. Robert said the message behind the piece is harmony. The work pays homage to the different disciplines within the Brooks Center in a way that “lifts them up and is aesthetically pleasing.” It contains a dancer, a light technician, a singer, a musician, and an actor — each performing. Robert wanted students who are studying in the building to look at the mural and “see themselves or see something that they connect with or relate to.”

After two joint paint sessions, the mural pieces were complete and ready to be displayed in their new home: the Brooks Center. Robert described the collaboration as a gift from each one of the contributors. They bought their own materials and gave up their time to produce something meaningful and beautiful that can now be shared with the whole Clemson community.

As difficult as these times are and have been, the shining light through it all has been people’s willingness to look out for each other while remaining connected and positive.

 

 

 

Honorary Alumna: Pamela Maddex Hendrix

Pamela Maddex Hendrix of Kiawah Island, S.C., was posthumously named honorary alumna by the Alumni Association. Hendrix graduated from Winthrop University in 1965 and married Leon “Bill” J. Hendrix ’63, M ’68*  in 1967. Through their marriage, Pam developed a deep love for Clemson and later saw her four children graduate from the University: Jill Ganzenmüller ’92, Joy Yonce ’93*, Holly Cirrito ’95* and Jim Hendrix III ’98.

Together, Pam and Bill have provided financial support for the Hendrix Student Center, the Hendrix Family Endowment for the Office for the Student Body President, the Class of 1963 Bridge to Clemson University Endowment, the President’s Leadership Circle and the Emerging Scholars Program. They were Founding Partners for the James F. Barker and Marcia Barker Scholarship Endowment and distinguished members of the Trustee Oak Society.

In honor of Pam’s passion for travel, her children surprised her and developed the Pamela Maddex Hendrix Dream Jar Travel Endowment, which provides meaningful travel experiences for Clemson students. After her passing, the family became an Academic Cornerstone Partner with a gift of $2.5 million to create the Pamela Maddex Hendrix Dream Jar Education Abroad Endowment.

The honorary alumna designation was presented to Bill and the entire Hendrix family at Bill’s home in Clemson by Wil Brasington ’00, executive director of the Alumni Association, and Gregg Morton ’78, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.