MOUNT OLIVE — Starting this fall, the University of Mount Olive will have a familiar face advocating for the arts. Larry D. Lean, professor of art and visual communications, has been appointed Artist in Residence at the university. The position is a new one for the university and for Lean, who has taught at UMO since 1987.
“I am honored that I have been selected for this position,” Lean said. “I will be the first Artist in Residence at University of Mount Olive and hopefully it is a position that can be continued for many years to come. We have excellent faculty members in our Departments of Fine Arts, Music, and Language and Literature that are well qualified to serve as Artist in Residence.”
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, in his new role Lean will be charged with promoting the arts at the University. “Our University has had an excellent history of programs in art, music, poetry, creative writing and other arts. We need to showcase these programs so the public will have the opportunity to see our wonderful talents. I will be working with various departments and programs in the arts at the university to do that.”
According to Lean, the Artist in Residence position came about because of a discussion that Lean had with University President Philip P. Kerstetter. “Phil and Mary are very interested in and supportive of the arts,” Lean stated. “We have had discussions about what this position could do for the university and how it could advance the arts. I was offered the position this summer and agreed to accept the challenge.”
Lean indicates that one of his first objectives will be to educate the public about what UMO has to offer. “We need to educate the public about the value of having the arts in their lives,” Lean said. “The arts have a way of inspiring us and bridging gaps between different groups of people. They are a connective tissue that can eliminate the differences between ages, races, religions and cultures. It is imperative that we use the arts as a means of bringing people together.”
Last year, the university started a program called the Fine Art’s Circle (FAC). FAC is made up of a group of individuals who work to promote the cultural, social, and economic importance of the arts to the community at large, by not only participating in fine arts gatherings, but also by helping to support them.
“People are always wondering what they can do to help at the University and I believe the FAC is a grand opportunity to contribute to an effort that in return, provides so much to the community,” Lean said. “Art events, music events, and poetry festivals are all free and open to the public but they don’t come without cost. The contributions to the Fine Arts Circle will provide additional funds to help support many of these events. We hope to provide more information about becoming a part of the Fine Arts Circle soon. If interested in this opportunity people can call the University and inquire about contributing.”
Most Artist in Residence positions culminate with the artist having a closing show. Lean, on the other hand, is starting his role with the opening of his show entitled, Too Many Crowns, which goes on display Aug. 25 to Sept. 28. The opening reception is slated for Sept. 6, from 2 to 5 p.m., in the Teresa Pelt Grubbs Gallery in Laughinghouse Hall.
“Too Many Crowns is an exhibit about the voice within me that speaks and the imagination that creates,” Lean said.
The show will include about 20 paintings, all completed since May of this year. “They range from ‘illustrative’ to ‘very painterly,’ and yet there is a unique thread that runs through them all,” Lean said. “It will challenge some who come with a very narrow interpretation of what fine art should be. In this way, I hope it will educate the public.”
Lean hopes that individuals that visit his show take away the message that art is an individual pursuit. “There are not rules when it comes to creativity,” said Lean. “We, as artist, are conditioned by our education to feel as though we must create images in a certain way. It is hard to break loose of the academic context and create freely and yet it is that freedom that reflects our creativity. I try my best to teach my students to listen to the voice within them. I want them to create and reflect their voices, not mine. I remember reading the book Demian by Hermann Hesse when I was in college. In the introduction he states, ‘I only wanted to live by the promptings that came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?’ That is what I want my students to learn to do. Many believe that art is what they want it to be and not a context that includes creative images of all kinds. They are reluctant to accept images that are different and yet the nature of the creative process dictates that difference. Although many are reluctant to accept things that are new and different, they are not solely responsible. It is the artist’s responsibility to join in and educate the public. Art is like music. You don’t have to like one kind of music and you don’t have to like one kind of art. As an educator I can appreciate all types of art and many different levels. My show will challenge some and I welcome the opportunity to educate.”
For more information about the Fine Arts Circle at the University of Mount Olive, or about Lean’s show Too Many Crowns, call 919-658-2502 or visit www.umo.edu.