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Young Harris College professor completes second Master of Fine Arts

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — An avid interest in kayaking – aka a “paddler” – provided a Young Harris professor the opportunity to explore the Appalachian waterways and pursue a second Master of Fine Arts along the way.

Professor Ted Whisenhunt, chair of the Young Harris College Art Department, recently completed a second MFA, in Graphic Design, from The Vermont College of Fine Arts. He also has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College as well as a Master’s in Fine Arts in Art from Florida State University.

“The field of graphic design presents an opportunity to take art outside of the gallery setting,” Whisenhunt said. “I love showing my art in galleries, but working in graphic design opens new doors and possibilities, and I wanted to learn more about that.”

Whisenhunt focused on the rivers and streams of Southern Appalachia for his MFA thesis, researching on, and interpreting semiotics – the study of signs and symbols and their use. He looked at the many rivers of Southern Appalachia, viewing each through different eyes and perspectives. Working with biologists, chemists, hydrologists and paddlers, Whisenhunt looked at the impact of the various rivers and streams and their relationship to the environment and culture – “studying the seen and the unseen.”

“It was a great opportunity to look into semiotics – the study of signs and symbols,” Whisenhunt said. “In studying the various waterways, I could see the particular ecosystem through a different set of eyes. Whether it was a chemist or hydrologist, or fellow kayaker.”

Each professional saw the waterway from a different point-of-view – the health of the ecosystem, cleanliness of the water, kayaking opportunities or the size of the fish.

Whisenhunt collected data, photographs and samples of each waterway as he worked on his MFA. He not only compiled the results into a book – Watermark, Rivers of Southern Appalachia – but he used the inspiration in his art.

Joining the Young Harris College faculty in 2009, Whisenhunt’s talents include drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and illustration. His personal artwork often includes mixed media which is, in part, influenced by the variety of courses that he teaches. He’s an active artist and designer whose work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and museums across the southeast and beyond, including The Huntsville Museum of Art, AL, Georgia State University, GA, Art Fields, Jones-Carter Gallery, SC, Berea College, KY, and The Rymer Gallery, TN.

When Whisenhunt is not in the classroom or in the studio, he can often be found paddling one of the nearby, world-class, whitewater rivers – Ocoee, Nantahala, Chattooga – that he studied for his MFA. Going with his fellow YHC colleagues, the avid “paddler” enjoys what this region has to offer.

He plans to use his second MFA to augment the Graphic Design area in the Art Department at Young Harris College, working with Kerry Jenkins, associate professor of Graphic Design.

“Graphic design just opens up a whole other world for artists. The gallery is a great location for art, but with graphic design you learn how to manipulate art in other media. You can take traditional materials to create unconventional art in a digital space.”

Whisenhunt, whose wife, Dr. Eloise Whisenhunt also works at Young Harris College as an Associate Professor of English and Dean of the Department of Humanities, plans to have a show at the Campus Gate Art Gallery at the College later this summer.

“I spent an entire day with each person I talked with and without fail, I learned so many things I never knew, from their perspective. There was so much right in front of me that I had never seen before.”

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit