Seth Johnson

Seth Johnson is the head of the art department at Jacksonville State University. The department’s Hammond Hall Art Gallery will be hosting a reception for three exhibit openings tonight from 5-7 p.m. The Hammond Hall and Round House galleries are also open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free.

What is your connection with JSU?

I came to JSU on an art scholarship in 1995, and I fell in love with JSU. My parents went to school here in the ’70s, so we have a family background here. I really enjoyed my experience here.

What did you do after graduating JSU?

I went from here to graduate school at the University of Tennessee. At that time, in 1999, web design was just taking off as a career, so the graphic design industry really needed professors that were graphic designers that could teach web design. They offered me a graduate teaching assistantship to go to the University of Tennessee to study web design from a graphic design perspective. I never planned to be a teacher. Four years ago, JSU was searching for a department head for the art department; I applied and was offered the job. It has been a challenge — a good challenge.

What made you want to come back to JSU?

I would say their biggest draw was their Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design — the only one of its kind in the state of Alabama; I was very excited to be on the ground floor of that.

What is your main goal for the JSU art department?

Recruitment; trying to get numbers up. I have done a whole lot of explaining how a prospective student can make a career in the arts.

How can someone make a career in the arts?

On any given day in your life, when you walk around, you see about 5,000 forms of advertising; who do you think made all that?

Someone has to do all the branding, information, motion graphics — all that stuff. You have traditional layout for magazines and newspapers and that kind of thing, but now you have all this digital publishing out there.

Every app on your phones and tablets — someone had to do all the artwork for those. There are five times more opportunities for prospective students now than there were years ago.

The biggest things we have to instill in students are entrepreneurial spirits and work ethic. The jobs are available, but you have to put yourself in the position to get those jobs. We want to give our students the skills they need to be successful, as well as the mindset to be successful in promoting and marketing themselves and building opportunities for themselves.

Do people need to build their own opportunities?

You have probably heard of the “maker community,” right? In the last 10 years, that has really grown. What we tell our students is that we do not just wait on opportunities anymore. If one is not right in front of you, make your own opportunity. There are so many outlets to be able to create something and sell it now.

Tell us about your programs.

We have six different concentrations, but most of our students come here for graphic design. Those students are not going to sit behind a computer the whole time; they are going to learn how to paint, draw, do all these different mediums because every bit of that is related. If you are going to be a graphic designer, you need to know how to take a photograph, illustrate, draw and how colors work together. We ask you to experiment and take all these different disciplines because everything you are going to learn will be applied into your career as a graphic designer.

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at