Sculpting a future

Sean Collins, a coordinator at the Student Union, studied fine arts sculpture at the University of North Texas before assuming his current position at UTD. Photo courtesy of Sean Collins.

Upon first glance, students may never guess the artistic background of this UTD Student Union employee. However, their opinions may change once they take a step into his office.

The “bat cave,” as SU Coordinator Sean Collins calls it, is located on the first floor of the Student Services Building and is decorated with self-shot photos of landscapes and framed comic book covers.

Collins often uses art in his job, where he helps plan events, create promotional images and handles the beautification of the building. One of his projects included making posters and flyers for the Late Night Program, a retired program that provided weekly events to help students take a break from their studies. Collins said that the promotional posters and flyers helped bring about a higher turnout at the events.

In his youth, Collins was introduced to the arts through his grandmother who was a painter, and said he enjoyed drawing characters of cartoons that showed every Saturday morning.  Later, he attended Richardson Arts Magnet School exposing him to other art forms, materials and processes. For college, he attended the University of North Texas, and he said he intended to become a drawing and painting major, but changed his mind and decided to study fine arts sculpture instead.

“I figured I would do a degree plan where I could learn how to make everything, and (majoring in sculpture) allowed me to do that,” Collins said.

Collins said he became interested in working at UTD because of Andrew Helgeson, assistant director of the SU and a friend Collins knew in college.

“He let me know when there was an opening almost 10 years ago. I hopped on board and I love it,” Collins said. “It’s really a cool thing to be in a tech and engineering school with an artsy and creative, long-haired, hippy background that I (have), and see how the creativity of an artist and the creativity of an engineer are quite similar.”

Collins said he has asked the question of “Why do art?” to himself and other artists over the years. He said that it is a compulsion and he is drawn to it.

“It’s always been a part of my life, and it’s a driver of the things that interest me. It’s the creative aspect,” Collins said. “In a course of a lifetime, you see a lot of things being torn down, not for a positive reason. Creating something and bringing people in and including them in the process, I think that is more positive.”

Collins said his whole family enjoys making art and that he and his wife — who went to school for fashion design — hope to encourage their children to continue art in the future.

“My son wants to be a game designer and my daughter is going to be a wild crazy artist, because that’s just how she is,” he said. “My grandmother passed (art) on to me, and I’m just trying to pass it on to them.”

Collins said he does not have any ongoing art projects at the moment, but would like to get involved in more projects in the future.

“I’m in my dad years, just making sure everything is good while my kids are in school,” Collins said. “When they get older, I’ll probably turn the garage back into a studio and build crazy stuff.”

Collins said he would like to go back to school and that he is interested in UTD’s strategic plan proposal of developing a master of fine arts degree.

“Art is one of the things that has made (me)  the happiest in my life,” Collins said. “Doing art — and now doing art with my children — is one of the coolest things.”

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