Kissinger says she lives and breathes creativity. 'It's hard for me to turn it off. It's in my DNA.'
Beverly Kissinger is a CHES treasure. Artist, designer and teacher, she has enriched the lives of students and faculty for nearly 25 years.
Last September, a retrospective exhibit titled “Beverly Kissinger: A Creative Life” in Doster Hall’s second-floor gallery featured a variety of art and design that Kissinger has created throughout her career.
The exhibit included landscapes, flowers, animals, several series of holiday card designs and a sampling of works that honored the retirement of colleagues. Among her credits, for many years Kissinger has designed the CHES annual holiday cards, creating an impressive collection of art for the College.
Her designs are often whimsical, with caricatures of cats, dogs and iconic elephants, reflecting a sense of humor that she says came from her parents. “My dad was very funny,” she remembers, adding that her mother had an “inadvertent” sense of humor.“ She was very funny, but she didn’t intend to be.”
It was her mother who recognized her daughter’s talent long before Kissinger did. “She always thought I should be an artist,” says Kissinger, who eventually began to see it as well.
While Kissinger’s mother and aunt were her cheerleaders, her dad enabled her to see the world and receive a good education. They were a military family, and Kissinger credits her opportunities to live all over the world with informing her art.
She reacts strongly to color and sees it in depth. She works in a broad spectrum of mediums, including pen and ink, watercolor, and design graphics.
Flowers and animals figure prominently in her work.“Flowers speak to me,” she says.“I’m a curve person, rather than straight lines, so flowers inspire me.”
Like many creative people, Kissinger has a number of interests, including musical theater. Interior design department Chair Shirley Foster remembers one morning when Kissinger was trying to get her students’ attention to begin class in her large applied design lecture. “She stood quietly at the podium for a moment and then began to sing,” says Dr. Foster. Not surprisingly, a hush fell over the classroom, and class soon began.
Kissinger says she lives and breathes creativity. “It’s hard for me to turn it off. It’s in my DNA. The older I get, somehow my brain works on something without my even thinking about it — it sort of works on it in the background, all by itself. And then I sketch it. But it didn’t work that way as a student.
“I’m creative as a teacher, too,” says Kissinger, who plans to retire in December 2015. “Students help me in that way. The creative challenge is orienting a project so that the learning process the student needs, happens.”
Her success as a teacher has not gone unrecognized, even beyond the University. In 2014 she received the Dr. Mary Ann Potter Award for Outstanding Educator in interior design from the Alabama Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.
As an artist, Kissinger brings valuable diversity to the interior design program, Foster says.“She connects with many of her students through her understanding of the artistic mind. Design thinking is different from fine art or graphic art thinking, and she helps students see that difference and use it in their works.”