The Academy is pleased to share a new ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT series on our blog. We'll be spotlighting our alums to give you an idea about what it's like to be an Academy grad, starting with Brian Fencl, MFA 2000. 

What are you currently working on?
Brian Fencl, "Oh, Thank Heaven"
oil on canvas, 24x18 in.
At the moment I live in two worlds. I am in the professor/ administrator world and the world of my studio. Both are satisfying worlds to be in and most of my answers will reflect this reality. In the studio I am in the beginning stages of creating work for the 2012 West Liberty University faculty show. We show every year and the theme for the next show is "meat." In my faculty/ administrative duties I am working on expanding our programs and creating a downtown arts center in the city of Wheeling, WV. The center has the possibility of revitalizing the downtown area and solidifying the Universities place as the cultural leader in the Ohio Valley. It is a big idea and I am thrilled that I get the opportunity to help make it a reality.

What was your most recent big thing?
I had a solo show at West Virginia State University in Charleston, WV last November. I also really enjoyed the the alumni show and gathering last fall at the Academy. That was a revitalizing experience.

What do you find challenging about your work?
In the studio it is remaining consistent. In New York and at the Academy it is easy to get valuable feedback about the the work while it is in process. I don't have that luxury here in West Virginia.

What do you find rewarding?
My job is basically to show people how to make art, talk about art history, and make art myself. That is what I do all day and I do it with people that are enthusiastic and eager to learn and grow. I am also now in position as a Department Chair to expand the role of the arts at the University and in the community I live in. From 2008 to 2010 I was the Visual Arts master teacher for the West Virginia Governor's School for the Arts. The WV GSA works with students entering their junior year of high school. They spend three weeks with us immersed in the arts.

Brian, in the studios at West Liberty
Last summer I was able to bring John Wellington (NYAA '90) out to work with the GSA students. He really connected with the kids, dramatically improved their skills and was a great ambassador for the Academy. It's pretty cool that I have the ability to guide young artists and work with great people like John.

What’s on the horizon for you?
2011 marks the 6th annual Paint Ogelbay: Plein Air weekend. It is an event I founded and have been organizing with a couple of local arts organizations. Last year we had fifty artists participate and we are hoping to be able to grow the event. West Virginia is a beautiful place and in the near future I would like to organize with the Academy an opportunity for students and alumni to come to West Virginia and do some plein air work.

I also want to give a shout out to the  West Liberty University Art site. I am always looking to get the word out about what a great place it is and hopefully find new supporters, artists for the gallery and workshop proposals.

Brian Fencl
Interim Chair Department of Journalism, Communication Studies & Visual Arts
Associate Professor of Art, West Liberty University

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