by Zach Krauss
Cedarville University’s newest studio art professor, Zac Benson, strives to encourage Christian community through art in the classroom.
Benson is an assistant professor of studio art and will teach sculpting, 3-D design and ceramics. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture and ceramics at University of Tennessee in Knoxville and studied sculpting in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of Colorado. He then worked at an internship in New York City producing art before pursuing his master of fine arts in studio art from the University of Maryland.
Benson had always known that he wanted to teach, so after finishing his graduate studies, he began searching for jobs. He was sadly aware that his search for a job in the higher
education realm started late in the hiring season. To his surprise, Cedarville was in need of a studio art professor at a rather late stage as well.
“I like to think that God provided the job for both me and for the department,” he said. “They needed someone kind of late in the game and I was able to follow where God was leading, which worked out on both sides.”
Benson said that he wasn’t specifically looking for a school like Cedarville; he wanted the Lord to show him where He wanted his family to go. Benson said if God had sent him to a secular institution he would have been content to simply shine as a light for Christ there. However, he’s glad he gets to work at a place like Cedarville where Christ is already ingrained into the campus.
Benson said he is excited about building community, not simply on campus as a whole, but particularly with the students he works with. Benson said he believes the art program at Cedarville is small but still very strong. He’s excited to bring the students together even more in a place where community is already emphasized
“I don’t want class to be just class, but something that helps them grow as artist and as Christians,” he said.
Upon beginning to work with students at Cedarville, Benson fell in love with the students as well. He said that from day one, not only were the students respectful, but they were also eager to learn. Benson primarily teaches classes that focus on foundations, so a lot of times the students learn art forms that are foreign to them.
“There’s a huge learning curve, and so much of their work has to be done in the studio,” he said. “This gives me a great opportunity to build community with them and hear their hearts, which is something I’m glad I get to experience through my position here.”
Benson said he’s excited to have the job of integrating Scripture into the arts. Benson discussed how the Christian community used to “own” the arts. Churches used to be covered in art which represented biblical stories and morality, which the congregation used in order to remember what they were learning even if they couldn’t read it themselves. Benson said he believes that today the arts have mostly been relinquished to a secular realm, and it’s something he wants to help his students with as he sends them out into the real world.
“I want to be able to help these art students learn that they can confidently make art and take it into the world,” Benson said. “I tell my students ‘if you don’t go out into the arts as Christians, who will?’ We have to equip each other to share the art that Christ has given us the talent to create.”
One of the other things Benson said he loves about Cedarville is that he can motivate students to go out into the darkness and engage unbelievers who are a large portion of those in the arts in our world today. He wants to be able to humbly and sincerely minister to people in the arts that might never be reached otherwise.
Dr. Thad Franz, the experiential programs vice chair for the pharmacy department, met Benson through Grace Baptist Church where they both attend. Franz was involved in helping Benson become connected with the campus.
Franz said he noticed how much work Benson puts into his classes, preparing for classes and helping students, saying that Benson goes above and beyond anything expected of an ordinary professor. Franz also said seeing Benson’s passion for his work is a reminder that bringing Benson into the university was a solid decision.
“Whether you’re in pharmacy, business, or for professor Benson, art, you can find the way that your faith can impact your profession,” Franz said. “From what I know about professor Benson, he’s done that in a very real way as he shows his love for Christ and his craft.”
Zach Krauss is a junior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community, and meeting new people.