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An artist comes home

Q and A with Wake Forest’s Anderson Williams

By Kim McGrath and Leah Nobles (Intern, Class of 2014) Office of Communications and External Relations
Anderson Williams, Ceremony (I'll Fly Away), 2010, (detail)
Anderson Williams, Ceremony (I'll Fly Away), 2010, (detail)

When Anderson Williams came to Wake Forest, he wanted to play baseball. By the time he graduated with honors in 1999, he was an artist. It was an unexpected turn.

“Within the first week on campus with new people, new classes and a whole new world, I decided that I was ready to embrace my college experience and leave the plan for a sports career in my past,” said Williams.

Meet Anderson Williams

The Nashville, Tenn., native teaches art at Watkins College of Art & Design. He has exhibited his work in Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon and France. His most recent exhibition, “(Re)Generations,” is hosted by Wake Forest University’s Student Art Gallery (START) and runs through Sept. 22.

He is an artist with a heart for youth leadership and mentoring. Williams developed an interest in education as a youth organizer with Community IMPACT! Nashville and, in 2006, was a finalist for the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for his work helping students gain access to college.

In addition to creating art and educating and guiding young leaders, Williams is studying business at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management. He earned an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and at Wake Forest, he double majored in both studio art and English.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

As a child I was in my element with notebooks, paper and markers. In elementary and high school I took art classes, and even at that young age, the feeling of putting something new into the world was thrilling. But, the idea of becoming ‘an artist’ happened at Wake Forest in the first sculpture class I took with professor David Finn.

How has your education informed your work?

Art education teaches you the process of creating, which far outlives the content knowledge that many degrees offer. A good process will never be outdated; you will always stay tapped in to current information and not bound to the information of the past. This kind of education instills a broader experience of living and learning.

How does art connect with your interest in business?

Being an artist has given me the confidence to pursue success in the business environment, even though I couldn’t have told you where the business school was when I was at Wake Forest. Because of my background in art, I know I can solve problems and think creatively. And since I started  business school having few of the formal skills and tools used in business, I  knew the experience would make me uncomfortable and build my critical thinking skills. And that’s art!

What advice would you give to future artists?

People often see and understand art as a specific skill, but art is a mindset and a process for facing the world and dealing with life’s challenges. Observing. Experimenting. Exploring. Questioning. Creating. Critiquing. Communicating. Building. Deconstructing. This is what art is about. Being an artist gives you the confidence to create the world you want to live in. It can guide your approach to everything you do.

Read more about Anderson Williams’ (Re)Generations artwork: “There Are No Words (Thank you, Francis Bacon)”

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