Renaissance in Art

By Jean Kelso '84 Sandlin, MPA '90

Professor Michael Pearce

Life was pretty good for Michael Pearce back in the mid-1990s. As a freelance artist, he mainly worked on commissioned pieces for wealthy rap artists in Hollywood. “It was all about money,” he freely admits.

Then a near-fatal car crash turned the British artist’s comfortable world upside down and gave him a whole new outlook on what life is all about.
“It totally woke me up on how easily life is lost and how fragile we all are,” he says.

As he recovered, Pearce began to make changes. He began pursuing a Ph.D., started teaching full time, and he and his wife joined the Lutheran Church to regain a “moral center.” He now strives to use art to “make people’s daily lives richer.”

Now an assistant professor of art at CLU, Pearce’s personal transition has helped to launch a transition in CLU’s Art Department. He is one of several faculty members hired two years ago to join veteran professor Larkin Higgins in rejuvenating the department.

"The ‘starving artist’ is a myth that no longer exists."

According to department chair Nathan Tierney, Ph.D., the last two years have seen a tremendous revitalization. “We have begun work on revising our curriculum and courses to more effectively serve the needs of our students as developing artists aiming at careers in the 21st century,” he explains.

“The ‘starving artist’ is a myth that no longer exists,” says Pearce in his smooth British accent, as he recites a long list of opportunities for artists: music videos, print advertising, Hollywood set design, graphic art, fine art, educational careers.

“We’re experiencing the most visual era in human history,” he says. “With the Internet, there has never been anything like it.”

As curator of CLU’s Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture, Pearce doesn’t allow the physical boundaries of the gallery or studio space to limit him or his students.

“The campus is our gallery,” he says.

A walk through the campus confirms it. Student and professional art is displayed on sidewalks, in courtyards, in classrooms and has even hung from the trees in Kingsmen Park.

Greg Miles, an art major from Redlands, Calif., describes CLU’s Art Department as “going places” and admits the public displays have played a key role in the department’s gaining more visibility on campus. “We bring art to the community and it’s getting a lot of people interested in art.”

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