“I was born in Texarkana, Texas, we moved to Findlay when I was 7. Then we moved to the UK for a few years before coming back to Findlay (my parents work for Cooper Tire and Rubber Company). I’m not really sure where I call my hometown, but Findlay is certainly the closest I’ve ever had to one!”
What are your doing now?
“Currently I’m teaching 2D Design courses at East Tennessee State University, where I’m getting my Masters of Fine Art in Studio Art (concentrations in painting and drawing). So I suppose that makes me a professor, but I think technically I’m just a graduate assistant. As far as job description it’s mostly planning. I just finished revising my syllabus and class structure for next semester.”
What made you choose Findlay over other schools?
“One of the biggest reasons I chose UF was for the scholarships they offered me. I was awarded a very substantial scholarship to come run track for coach Marc Arce. Then, on top of that, I received a considerable amount for scholastic achievement.
I absolutely feel like it was a good choice. Sometimes I wonder if going to a bigger school would have helped propel me into the art world more – it’s a difficult thing to get into as is. However, when I think about how much time my professors dedicated to me as an individual I don’t waste anymore time wondering about a bigger school. Now when I think about what kind of place I would like to teach at after I graduate, I find myself wanting that same environment, to get to have the same sort of relationships with my students.”
How did you decide what career path to follow?
“Honestly, I didn’t. That may sound cheesy, but I came in to college with a lot of options on my plate. I looked into engineering, physics, biology, and English. In the end I think I just realized that every other choice felt wrong in some way. The great thing about UF is I still got to take courses I was interested in along the way. To me, being an artist means being infinitely interested in the world, so it made a huge difference that I got to take physics, geology, epidemiology, Latin American influences, religion, poetry … etc. Art combines everything, and the artist gets to do critical thinking about it all.”
Did you have one on one mentoring from faculty?
“There are several examples of one on one mentoring. Valerie Escobedo, Marianna Hofer, Anne Beekman, Anita McCandless … all of these women did amazing things for me as a student. They each took the time to hear what I was saying, which really boosts your self esteem as a person, in general, but when you’re about to stand on your own two feet for the first time… the time they gave me was invaluable. Val was my advisor, and I think I took every single one of her classes, which is a lot! That gave me an opportunity to see what working hard as an artist looks like. She’s tireless as a professor and I always appreciated her honesty. She prepared me for graduate school in ways that I still probably don’t even see.”
What skills did you learn that help you in your current job?
“As an artist and as a professor, I learned everything I needed to be successful from the art faculty, all of them, at UF. They did a great job of passing on knowledge and ideas to me, and thanks to their example, I’m a better teacher, listener, thinker and creator.”
What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
“Definitely connecting with and mentoring first-year students. ETSU is a lot bigger than UF, so I get very large (in comparison to my experience) classes, and it’s easy for students to get lost in the mix. Of course, the first priority is to teach them about effective design, but at the end of the day, they all improve as artists because they can’t help themselves (it seems), but the most gratifying feeling is getting end of semester reviews back and hearing that even a few of them were encouraged in whatever pursuit they’ve taken up.”
What is your goal after you achieve your MFA?
“Well, there are a lot of things up in the air. Evan Rowland (my partner) and I are travelers, so there is a definite possibility that we will be traveling to South America (he has a degree in Spanish from UF) after I am done. But who knows? I’ve always been the type of person who makes as many opportunities for myself as possible, and then, when the time comes, I choose the most exciting one. I will probably be applying to lots of universities, looking for a teaching position hopefully at a place like UF. However, my biggest goal is and will always be to get people to see my work. I believe that people need introspection and making, not finding, your place in the world, both of which I try to speak to in my work. It’s hard to say I have a goal of becoming famous or of getting “in” the “art world” because those aren’t sustainable goals. I just want to wake up every day and become a better person, which in turn will always make my message better.”
What advice do you have for students who want to pursue art?
“First of all, if you are even remotely interested in art or communication, take a class. It’s hard for me to say art is this, or art is that, because it is what you make it. That being said, it is always surprising. If you want to hear how having a major in art will help you in the job market, then I’d tell you that there is a real lack of creative and critical thinking in interviewees currently, and businesses want people who can look at something from multiple, new perspectives, which is exactly what a degree in any arts will give you. You can learn or look up any other information you might need in the world, but to have the ability to think for yourself is special. If you want to hear why you should be an artist, I would say it’s because you can’t stop asking “why” of the world and yourself. Be open to new ideas. You don’t know everything and you never will … but you can keep trying to learn it all.”
What do/did you love about being an Oiler?
“How excited the school gets about what I’m up to. They check up on you, they give you connections… when I had my nose to the grindstone I wasn’t as worried about what Findlay was doing for me, but as soon as I looked into the vast void of what’s called “the future” it was nice having this University and these professors behind me.”
Whitney’s artwork appeared in The University of Findlay’s Lea Gallery as well.