Creativity Thrives in UM Art Department

Kathy Dean Features, Giving, Learning, Spring 2022

Art is everywhere, from the image that appears when you turn on a cell phone to the billboard you see through your car window. It’s in the magazine you read, the packaging you open, the photos you share and the design of the mug that holds your coffee.

Every piece of art communicates something, says University of Mobile art professor Phillip Counselman ’01, chair of the art department at the Christ-centered university.

“Art is the most powerful form of communication, because it’s a direct form of communication,” Counselman said. “I always tell students, if you’re going to read a book, then you have to get that book, you have to open that book, and you have to look inside it. With art, you don’t have to do that. It’s constantly in our face on a daily basis.”

UM’s growing art department is preparing graduates to thrive in a competitive field, with expanding course offerings and real-world experiences.

Sophie Eberhard ’21says she is ready, and she has the portfolio to prove it.

“Honestly, I feel equipped to do almost anything in the creative industry,” said Eberhard, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. The program also offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art, a Bachelor of Arts in art, and a graphic design certificate that can be added to any major throughout the university.

Eberhard explained: “I’ve learned so much about film and photography, and I’ve also learned how to paint and draw, and the basics of ceramics and building things. I’ve learned how to create anything in print and how to create packaging. I’ve learned really just so many things that could cover an array even outside of design…learning everything that goes into each project. There’s so much more than you originally think, but I feel equipped to do all these things from start to finish now.”

Graphic design professor Megan Cary said Eberhard’s wide range of experience and confidence is the result of an art program where faculty know and build long- lasting relationships with their students while providing real-word experiences and internships that produce job- ready graduates.

“Because we’re a small university, we’re able to pivot,” Cary said. “That means if the industry changes or what’s popular in the design industry or studio art world changes, we are able to make quick changes. We can introduce new technologies and integrate old technologies and give students a wide variety of learning experiences.”

A Dickerson Combination Press recently donated by local artist Conroy Hudlow is a prime example of an old technology that is popular in the creative industry right now. UM students will be able to learn how to print using traditional methods such as linocuts and woodblock prints, and etching and dry point prints.

Students also learn new technologies such as email marketing, creative app design and making working prototypes in the UI/UX field, which has the number one employment rate for designers these days, Cary said.

In the near future, the professors want to add equipment and programs to teach 3-D printing and virtual reality; add space for classrooms, exhibits and art studios for students; add master’s degrees; and seek accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Art is everywhere, from the image that appears when you turn on a cell phone to the billboard you see through your car window. It’s in the magazine you read, the packaging you open, the photos you share and the design of the mug that holds your coffee.

Every piece of art communicates something, says University of Mobile art professor Phillip Counselman ’01, chair of the art department at the Christ-centered university.

“Art is the most powerful form of communication, because it’s a direct form of communication,” Counselman said. “I always tell students, if you’re going to read a book, then you have to get that book, you have to open that book, and you have to look inside it. With art, you don’t have to do that. It’s constantly in our face on a daily basis.”

UM’s growing art department is preparing graduates to thrive in a competitive field, with expanding course offerings and real-world experiences.

Sophie Eberhard ’21 says she is ready, and she has the portfolio to prove it.

“Honestly, I feel equipped to do almost anything in the creative industry,” said Eberhard, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. The program also offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art, a Bachelor of Arts in art, and a graphic design certificate that can be added to any major throughout the university.

Eberhard explained: “I’ve learned so much about film and photography, and I’ve also learned how to paint and draw, and the basics of ceramics and building things. I’ve learned how to create anything in print and how to create packaging. I’ve learned really just so many things that could cover an array even outside of design…learning everything that goes into each project. There’s so much more than you originally think, but I feel equipped to do all these things from start to finish now.”

Graphic design professor Megan Cary said Eberhard’s wide range of experience and confidence is the result of an art program where faculty know and build long- lasting relationships with their students while providing real-word experiences and internships that produce job- ready graduates.

“Because we’re a small university, we’re able to pivot,” Cary said. “That means if the industry changes or what’s popular in the design industry or studio art world changes, we are able to make quick changes.

We can introduce new technologies and integrate old technologies and give students a wide variety of learning experiences.”

A Dickerson Combination Press recently donated by local artist Conroy Hudlow is a prime example of an old technology that is popular in the creative industry right now. UM students will be able to learn how to print using traditional methods such as linocuts and woodblock prints, and etching and dry point prints.

Students also learn new technologies such as email marketing, creative app design and making working prototypes in the UI/UX field, which has the number one employment rate for designers these days, Cary said.

In the near future, the professors want to add equipment and programs to teach 3-D printing and virtual reality; add space for classrooms, exhibits and art studios for students; add master’s degrees; and seek accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Counselman said enrollment has tripled in recent years as the art program has expanded. New academic programs and new equipment are key to creating more opportunities for students to pursue God’s calling for their lives.

For Kevin Pettigrew, a junior majoring in studio art, that calling will take him back to his hometown in Flora, Mississippi. A graduate of the Mississippi School of the Arts, he enrolled at UM to pursue an art degree and planned to start a career as a professional artist. But his experience as a volunteer firefighter sparked a different desire.

“I feel called to be there on the streets helping people,” Pettigrew said. After graduation, he plans to join the local police force and start a non-profit on the side using his art degree.

“I want to start a non-profit organization where I can bring troubled people in to put all their frustration into wheel throwing pottery or into paint on a canvas instead of crime or drugs, and hopefully give them a sort of purpose in life,” he said. “People have a really good sense of self-worth when they have created something.”

The influence of his peers, professors and university staff helped him discover what God has called him to do, he said. “UM is a great place to pursue whatever you’re called to do,” Pettigrew said. “I don’t believe I would have found that anywhere else.”

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy is an award-winning media relations director and former journalist whose expertise has enabled the University of Mobile to gain national and regional attention. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Auburn University and worked as a journalist for 12 years, including 10 years at the Mobile Press-Register, earning regional and national awards for coverage of education, deadline reporting and feature writing. She joined the University of Mobile staff in 1993, earning awards for writing and public relations including the Baptist Communicators Association grand prize for feature writing in 2015 and 2012. She is a charter member of Providence United Methodist Church, serves on the board of the John Will Scholarship Foundation, and is a member of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, Baptist Communicators Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. Kathy lives in Daphne with her husband, Chuck, who earned his M.B.A. from the University of Mobile. They have two children and two grandchildren.