Central State professor teaches "the business side of art"
August 14, 2023, Wilberforce, Ohio - Central State University Professor of Graphic Design and Art Coordinator Mitchell Eismont opens his public biography page on his website with the declaration that “Graphic design is my passion; it’s a sickness.” Granted, Eismont does punctuate his rather provocative disclosure with the added notions: “It’s what I do in my free time and at work. It’s my calling.” Whether Eismont’s noted passion for the creative arts is, as he so colorfully and sardonically suggests, a “sickness” or, perhaps more accurately and somberly, a “calling,” the result is the same. Artistry is far more than a hobby or pastime for the Central State graphic design and photography instructor who has been an active and determined member of the faculty since 2013, having earned his full professorship this past summer. “After I had been "adjuncting" around for a lot of years at different places and taking various jobs in the commercial arts industry, I ended up teaching at the Art Institute of Cincinnati,” Eismont began. “But after they started going bankrupt, I was looking for something more stable. But, also more politically liberal. Central State seemed to be a pretty good fit for me, I applied and got the job.” Early on as a Central State associate professor, Eismont focused primarily on teaching students the practicalities, craftsmanship, and business of graphic design. Though both the industry and term itself is changing rapidly, Eismont explained that “graphic design” can still best be distinguished from other art forms and media by its focus on what Eismont referred to loosely as “the business side of art.” This includes such by-products of commercial art: logo making, typography, and illustration. “For me, graphic design is ultimately about thinking critically and creatively,” Eismont elaborated. “And so, that’s really what I try to instill into my students. Especially with AI coming more into the picture, since it’s not going anywhere.” In addition to having to learn how to cope with – as opposed to fighting against or resisting – AI and other external factors more and more entering the commercial arts world, Eismont works with his students on how to properly take and incorporate into their projects' criticism from corporate clients for which they may be hired. As a lifelong working artist who dabbles in fine arts as well, Eismont certainly understands the importance of allowing students to feel free in expressing themselves creatively with the fruits of their creative labors. Yet, he at the same time makes sure his aspiring graphic designers understand clearly that “the clients are the ones signing the check.” Graphic design is as Eismont puts it, “more largely client-based”; whereas fine art is “more for yourself, even though there may be a lot of overlap there, too.” Lest we forget, as Eismont discussed, even one of history’s most renowned classical fine artists, Michelangelo, still worked for commissions through the Pope. Interestingly, Eismont hadn’t begun his journey toward becoming an artist and Central State art instructor with these end results in mind. “The origin story for me is that back in high school, I was really more of a poet,” Eismont said. “But then I realized that – no fault to other poets – I probably couldn’t make much money at it.” Shortly after making this realization, Eismont’s high school was visited by recruiters promoting the field of graphic design as a potential career. The young Eismont was attracted to the recruiters’ pitches, being that he felt “graphic design seemed pretty close to what I was doing anyway, and a lot of my artwork later would, in fact, be based around injecting words and phrases into the pieces and also how words and images might combine.” Eismont enrolled in Pennsylvania’s PennWest Edinboro, graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Multimedia Arts and an emphasis in Graphic Design. From there, Eismont remained in Oil City, Pa., designing graphics for ads promoting local businesses such as car dealerships and restaurants through a regional newspaper. Subsequent to his years at the paper, Eismont made his move to the big city, Pittsburgh, where he worked for a seasonal invention company. “They invented new Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations, and that sort of thing, Eismont explained. “Probably my dream job.” Over the duration of the three years Eismont worked at the unique arts production company, he rose in the ranks to Creative Director prior to the organization’s going bankrupt during the economic collapse of 2008. Also, during this time, Eismont was pursuing his graduate degree at Scranton, Pa.’s Marywood University where, after four years, he received his Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. His thesis harkened back to his earlier passion for wordplay and belles-lettres, with a spotlight on the history of visual poetry. It was around that time that Eismont says he knew he wanted to become a teacher, having gained background experience in the fine and commercial art industry to instruct the next generation of young creatives. After making the “adjunct rounds,” as he put it, at a variety of community and four-year colleges in Pennsylvania, Eismont transferred to Cincinnati, following his partner who was pursuing her Ph.D. there at the time. It was during this transitional phase that Eismont ended up at the city’s aforementioned Art Institute. “I wanted to give back to future generations,” Eismont said. “And being a first-generation college student, as well, it was very difficult for me when I was in school to navigate that system. I thought it would be helpful if someone like me, with my personal and professional background, could help others navigate that system better.” “That was probably why I decided to start teaching at Central State,” Eismont continued. “To connect more with that kind of student who could really use my help in that way.” “I actually had another job offer at the same time as a senior art director at a toy company. But once I got to Central State’s campus and met the art faculty, that’s what really drew me in here: their energy, their excitement for the program.” “What they were doing there seemed great. It was stable, high-level, and something where I could help students too. It was what I had been looking for all along.” -30-
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