Retiring Professor Impacted Scores of Student-Artists
Aiken, SC (07/25/2018) — For almost 40 years, one humble University of South Carolina Aiken artist has inspired legions of Aiken painters.
'[Al Beyer] is an inspirational professor," said Mike Parsons, a Class of '86 art major.
"He is passionate about art, and he cares about his students."
In the local art community, Beyer's name is a staple. One most know and respect. Many citizens and students of all ages - some as old as 98 - have either taken classes under Beyer's tutelage or they've admired and purchased his work to adorn their walls at home or in their offices. Others may recall that for many years he created the design for the annual Pacers and Polo poster.
"A wonderful man and a wonderful artist," said former colleague Deidre Mercer Martin of the retiring professor who taught his last class this spring.
"He always came through with beautiful art for the Pacers and Polo poster and was a pleasure to work with through the years."
At any given time, one can walk the halls of USC Aiken the art department and find one of Beyer's students working on their own creation. When not in class, the storied professor will wander past student-artists, offering suggestions on color, angles or perspectives.
"Al has a very special way of interacting with students, and I would always look forward to talking with him," said graphic design major Brad Carson, Class of '15.
"He left a permanent mark on me as a student, artist, and human being."
Other students agree.
"[Al] was much more than a mentor during my college career. He became a lifelong friend," said Ed Redd, fine arts major in the Class of '10.
"Al knows how to connect with students on a personal level to encourage them not only to strive for the best in the studio, [and] he has encouraged countless young adults to be their very best in all aspects of their lives."
Beyer is credited by some as having a major role in the visual arts program at USC Aiken.
"To ensure his legacy of dramatic, thought-provoking art continues, the university has established the USC Aiken Art Faculty Scholarship Fund," said Mary Driscoll, vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs.
"He simply wouldn't have it named for him, but Al did want to make sure students majoring in fine arts with an emphasis for visual arts could apply for this scholarship."
The Art of Al Beyer, an exhibit in the Etherredge Center Main Gallery, July 27 - Aug. 15, will feature his multi-media pieces.
"They will be representative of different time periods," Beyer said.
Fellow art professors' works will be exhibited also. The public is invited to a reception honoring Beyer, July 31, 7 - 9 p.m. Selected art will be available for purchase with proceeds benefitting the USC Aiken Art Faculty Scholarship Fund. Donations in Beyer's name will go toward the same fund.
The inspiration for Beyer's work and his own perspectives were forged from his life's experiences, which included diverse people of all ages, from all walks of life; working trips to distant countries; and his own personal journey, which included significant life-altering health issues and personal scenarios.
"Al was a terrific instructor, and he is such a unique individual. His work continues to inspire, and his humorous side made it a joy to be in his classroom," said Sara Reynolds, fine arts, Class of '16.
"His knowledge of the history of fine arts and careful instruction made a huge impact on how I approach new projects."
Whether through the strokes of his brush or through the lens of his camera, Beyer captures the imagination and guides art aficionados, students, and laymen to rethink subjects depicted.
"Al has a take-no-prisoner approach to teaching but is a fierce advocate for his students as I personally found him to be for all the fine arts students and me," said Michael St. John, a Class of '16 fine arts major.
"He never shied from telling it how it is, and I appreciate him for that. Art can be a tough business, and it's nice to have such knowledgeable and honest friends like Al."
When not sharing his insights, experiences and expertise in the classroom, Beyer focuses on his own work. He uses a variety of media - drawings, acrylics, photography - and paints religiously every night.
"He creates a masterpiece, one inch at a time," said St. John.
It can take numerous hours, weeks, even months to complete just one painting. Despite the commitment of time and attention, Beyer has hundreds of pieces. Some he created while visiting any one of 11 different countries.
In addition to the exhibit and scholarship, the university planted a tree in Beyer's memory as part of its Arbor Day celebration.
At the time, he humbly acknowledged peers, students and other friends of the university for their hard work and support.
Beyer said he accepted the gift of the Natchez Crepe Myrtle tree planted in his honor "only as the representative of a larger group."
Editor's Note: Professor Al Beyer retires after almost four decades at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The Art of Al Beyer, an exhibit in the Etherredge Center Main Gallery, July 27 - Aug. 15, will feature his multi-media pieces. Fellow art professors' works will be exhibited also. The public is invited to a reception honoring Beyer, July 31, 7 - 9 p.m. Selected art will be available for purchase with proceeds benefitting the USC Aiken Art Faculty Scholarship Fund. Donations in Beyer's name will go toward the same fund.