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Steven Pearson, M.F.A

An artist who encourages every student to bring their unique perspectives into their creations.

Enthusiastic | Creative | Explorative
Steven Pearson teaches students the importance of pairing conceptual ideas with technical skills. “Art isn’t just the ability to copy a picture, it’s more about using those skills to convey an idea that addresses our contemporary world,” he says. Pearson joined the Navy after high school, but he was soon drawn to pursue art and become an educator.
What’s your background? Where were you before McDaniel and when did you start here?

I grew up in Johnstown, New York, in the foothills of the Adirondacks in what is known as the Leatherstocking region. I always liked to draw, and art was one of the few things I was good at. I never thought of it as a career though, and college seemed like an unrealistic goal due to the cost. Being a first-generation college student, college wasn’t something my family talked about or something I seriously considered.

Instead, I joined the Navy on the Delayed Entry Program before my senior year of high school, thinking that would be my career. I went to bootcamp in Orlando, Florida, just as Tom Cruise’s Top Gun was in theaters in the summer of 1986. Although Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise’s character) made a career in the Navy, I did not. I felt the need to continue my learning by pursuing art.

I earned an associate in arts degree in Studio Art from Fulton-Montgomery Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from the College of Saint Rose. I attended graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Leroy E. Hoffberger School of Painting to study under Grace Hartigan, a well-known abstract expressionist painter who rose to prominence in the 1950s.

I returned to Saint Rose as an adjunct professor of painting and drawing, where I taught for four years. I maintained my art practice in a large studio in an old shoe factory in Albany, New York. At the same time, I kept a full-time job as a security site supervisor for two malls in the Schenectady region. Unfortunately, unlike Paul Blart, I did not get to patrol the mall on a Segue.

In 2001, I began teaching foundations-level Art at Iowa State University. I learned a lot about teaching, and it was the first time I could teach and make art without needing a second job.

Why did you choose McDaniel as a place to work? What inspired you to become part of the Hill?
In 2004, I applied to teach painting at McDaniel College. Having gone to graduate school in Baltimore, I was eager to be back on the east coast after teaching in Iowa for three years. I’ve had great students from that first year to this current one, almost 19 years later. In my first year we started an art club, and over the years students have participated in national juried exhibitions in Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, just to name a few.
What have you enjoyed most during your time at McDaniel?

I’ve worked with great students who have challenged me to be a better teacher and artist. They’ve gone on to graduate schools like the Maryland Institute College of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, American University, Otis College of Art, Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland, and the School of Visual Arts.

In 2022, I did my first Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research with two amazing students, Kate Cramer and Juliana Stolkovich. That experience reinvigorated my teaching and my art practice, helping me find my way as I follow a new direction in my artwork.

What do you hope students take away from your courses?
I hope students in my courses learn that art is multifaceted. It can be beautiful, focused on craft and skill, but at the same time it can address the social, cultural, political, and natural world we live in. Art is flexible, fluid, and ever-changing to meet the needs of the times it is addressing, and art is all around us. Finally, I want them to understand that art is a lifelong journey whose destination is always eluding us, but the trip is worth taking!

About Prof. Pearson

Professor of Art and Joan Develin Coley Chair in Creative Expression and the Arts, Director of Esther Prangley Rice Gallery
Subject: Painting, Drawing
Department: Art