Showing the Story Behind the Story of St. Paul Union Depot Murals


In St. Paul, Minnesota, six enormous paintings adorn the cavernous waiting room of Union Depot. Created by Ralph Gilbert, these majestic works send viewers on a provocative journey evoking the rich history of both the region and of railways. Vibrant colors with intertwined compositions guide one through a visual odyssey as only good murals do.  Each being 16’ tall, it’s hard to decipher how anyone could conceive such a body of work.

Therefore, we are exhibiting the story behind the creation of the story.

In most cases, the creative processes of artists remain hidden. The final product seen by the viewer, interpreted as a sudden euphoric outburst of creative genius. But in the Mary S. Byrd Gallery at Augusta University, we have the rare opportunity to show exactly how such a grandiose project developed. Mr. Gilbert is generously displaying preliminary works to include initial sketches to fully rendered paintings that led to the final masterpieces. Art is work, and it’s apparent from Mr. Gilbert’s process that inspirations is indeed, mostly perspiration. This show is not to be missed.

A Story in Pictures: Studies for the St. Paul Union Depot Murals by Ralph Gilbert will be on display from August 17 – September 16, 2016. Mr. Gilbert will give a presentation on Thursday, September 8 at 5 p.m. A reception will follow.

As we continue to build the creative community in Augusta, we’ll continue telling the story of the creative process and what it’s like to be a practicing creative person. Ralph Gilbert is an excellent story teller. I’d encourage all to attend the lecture.

Why Augusta University is the Place for Art


To say Augusta is the perfect city for art may be a stretch. It’s not a cultural hub, and it doesn’t have a lot of galleries. But Augusta is the perfect city for building a transformative art department. The timing and circumstances are right.

As a city, Augusta is like many others. Geographically, it’s a city between cities. There’s a river running through and a beautiful lake nearby. Suburban areas surrounding it are on an exponential growth curve. What’s unique about this place however, is how it’s changing. The obvious connections to art and the two art festivals in town which are very successful and building the level of interest in arts and culture—“Westobou” and “Arts in the Heart.” My department is involved in both. But the real forces of change are below.

Air Force Cyber Command online for future operations

Capt. Jason Simmons and Staff Sgt. Clinton Tips update anti-virus software for Air Force units to assist in the prevention of cyberspace hackers July 12 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The Air Force is setting up the Air Force Cyberspace Command soon and these Airmen will be the operators on the ground floor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)


Fort Gordon is becoming the Cyber Command Headquarters for U.S. Army. Currently, the fort employs around 20,000 people. By 2019, Fort Gordon will be a defensive operation actively protecting networks spanning the globe. This is bringing all kinds of investment and interesting people to the area. Everyone in the area seems to be scrambling to capitalize on cyber something. Thus we are seeing an influx of tech initiatives. Rent is cheap, and tech startups don’t need a lot of infrastructure. Click here to read an article on it.


Augusta University is a new institution forged from a collision of two unlike colleges. I wasn’t here when it happened, but to hear people talk, it was a collision. And with that, the Board of Regents directed it to be a top tier research institution. We have a new name and a new mission. To lead us in the right direction, we also have a new president, Brooks A. Keel, PhD. He’s an alumni of both institutions that formed Augusta University. He totally understands the future of education, and is working hard to build a leading university known for innovation. I feel very fortunate having him at the helm. To read about his vision click here for a recent article in Augusta Magazine.

As of now, my department is relatively small and local. I looked the other day and we have 94 majors. We offer the regular range of degrees concentrating in ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, painting, photography and graphic design. Our faculty and staff are talented and active. As we grow, we’ll continue to offer more design oriented degrees until we reach a 50/50 relationship between fine arts and design. What makes us special though, is that we plan to develop an innovative model of contemporary art education with an emphasis on fulfilling creative careers—in a wide spectrum of fields. We’ll be building bridges between the arts and the sciences and demonstrate how universities and communities should be collaborative and complementary. In my next post I’ll let you in on one of our new initiatives.

Please join us on our journey.

Building an Art Department from a Merger


A year ago I took a position as Chair of an art department in a university existing in a constant state of flux. It’s the product of what I call an extreme merger. In 2012, Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences Universities were combined to make Georgia Regents University. The goal was to create a comprehensive research institution. These institutions had little in common other than geography. In the short term, what happened was chaos. The name even changed once more to be Augusta University. But as the dust is settling the institution is proving to be a bastion of opportunity. As painful as the process was for everyone involved, it has created a wonderful place to work and learn.

During the past year, I’ve been coming up to speed with my new institution and the community surrounding it. A surprising understanding I’ve come to is how my department is far better if we build it as a creative community.

By a community, I mean a layered community extending outside the institution. The first layer resides within the department – we need to work together, communicate and support each other. The second layer includes the remainder of the institution – by working with all other departments on campus we can better utilize the wide an unexpected resources within the university. The third layer extends to the geographic area – there needs to be a fuzzy edge between the institution and the local community where collaboration is the norm. Creativity is a no-brainer because we now exist in an age of innovation where creativity is a must. Everyone institution should be ramping up support for creative initiatives.

Over the next year, I’ll tell the story of our transformation from a small department (80 something art majors) serving the local community to a nationally recognized department building a creative community in Augusta. To get a full read on my vision check out this article, Scott Thorp: Designing the Future, published in the Master’s issue of Augusta Magazine.

As I post, probably once per week, you’ll see how the Department of Art and the university are advancing. We just established a social media presence for the department, so follow us on twitter, Instagram and Facebook as we build our creative community @aug_artdept, #artinaugusta.

Plight of the Loner


At the turn of the last century, a brilliant young inventor, Philo T Farnsworth, learned the hard way some endeavors are too big to go it alone. Farnsworth had an incredible vision—one that changed the way we live. From childhood, Farnsworth was brilliant and precocious. He constantly fiddled with electronics and gizmos. As a child, he converted his mom’s sewing machine from a manual one into an electric one. Then there was one fateful day when he was fourteen.  On that day, he was struck by a vision of genius while working on the family farm. The parallel rows of potato fields in front of him prompted a moment of insight for transmitting rows of electronic information that could be reassembled to form an image. At that moment, Farnsworth conceived television.[i] That moment should have also ensured Farnsworth a place in the pantheon of great scientists, but it didn’t. Instead, it signaled the beginning of a lifelong battle of frustration.

Farnsworth was a loner and wouldn’t relinquish control of his invention to a large corporation. For this, he doomed himself into a revisionary tale of David and Goliath in which David lost. Farnsworth didn’t understand the complexities of bringing such a device to market, and he was outdone by the president of RCA, David Sarnoff. Sarnoff had the money and resources that large corporations do, and Farnsworth had little. Farnsworth had to do everything himself—even legal work. One of the saddest instances of Farnsworth’s troubles was when Sarnoff came to visit Farnsworth’s main laboratory in San Francisco, and Farnsworth wasn’t there. He was instead in New York combating a frivolous lawsuit. It could have been his chance to woo RCA’s media titan. Instead, what happened is that Sarnoff left San Francisco relatively uninterested and made a low offer for Farnsworth’s patents which Farnsworth turned down.[ii]

There are numerous occasions like this where Farnsworth either missed an opportunity or was not qualified for what he was doing, such as arguing a case before Congress. In front of Congress, he rambled endlessly.

In general, Farnsworth misunderstood how he needed others to help his invention succeed.  He thought it was clear that he invented Television, and therefore, should always be the King of Television. But as more and more creative endeavors go, television needed resources to come to fruition. There were many parts to it. What he invented was the part that brought it to life. It was expensive, and it was a race. As Farnsworth worked on his image dissector, many others were developing similar technology. Farnsworth just happened to be in the lead at the moment. When RCA engineer Vladimire Zworykin finally filed a patent in 1931 for the iconoscope—his version of the TV camera—there were at least six similar patents from five different countries being filed at the same time. Farnsworth couldn’t keep up and, in 1939, witnessed RCA’s televised coverage of the World’s Fair in which Sarnoff introduced both President Roosevelt and Albert Einstein before claiming television as his own.[iii]

[i]  Gladwell, Malcolm.”The Televisionary.” The New Yorker, May 27, 2002: 112-116.

[ii] (Gladwell, The Televisionary 2002, 112)

[iii] (Gladwell, The Televisionary 2002, 116)

I’ll Be Speaking in Augusta on December 9th


I was privileged to be asked to juror the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s current exhibition, Icon. Augusta is fortunate to have such a wonderful organization and also to have such talented artists living in this area. The reception for Icon is Friday, December 4th.

Additionally, I’ll be speaking for GAAC’s Aspirations series about the works in the exhibition. In that presentation, I’ll discuss my unique views on critique and praise. If you are in the area of Augusta, GA, please come by. The talk will be in the gallery at 600 Broad Street, Wednesday, December 9th at 5:30pm.

For more info, click here.