Paul Benjamin: Freedom to Create

Paul Stephen Benjamin’s education at Georgia State University started with a dream and some risk.

Benjamin is an artist and sculptor, with solo exhibitions and significant awards. He worked in the corporate world as a retail manager, and wanted to teach art and sculpture full-time.

Married with two young children, Benjamin strongly desired to avoid debt as he pursued a master’s degree.

Today his dream is becoming real thanks to the Winnie Jones Chandler Art and Design Fellowship, which is administered through the GSU Foundation and the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design.

This award was created by Dr. Colquitt L. Chandler in memory of his wife, Winnie, a painter and dedicated art student. It recognizes the most promising incoming graduate art and design candidates. Funding is made possible by David and Vesta Jones and the CLC Foundation, loyal supporters of the university.

“Funding education is like making art. Both take vision,” Benjamin said.

“As an artist, my respect for the past challenges me to create work that is relevant not only today but also tomorrow. I assemble everyday objects into sculptures that stir the viewer’s experiences and thoughts, especially regarding birth and transformation. We all have potential for creating meaning today that will last into the future.”

Benjamin received his B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has taught workshops at the Terra Foundation for American Art at DePaul University and the Romare Bearden Foundation.

Benjamin has had numerous solo/two-person exhibitions, and in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia group exhibition, “Dissolving Stereotypes/Forging New Dialogues: An Exhibition Beyond Race.”

His honors include the Diasporal Rhythms Artist Recognition Award, a Hambidge Fellowship, and the Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award.

“One of the most important things for me as an artist is to freely create work, to not have limitations, to be able to create work that is intelligent and aesthetically beautiful, that speaks to people directly or indirectly,” he said. “Having this opportunity and this funding is affording me that.”

The Chandler Fellowship leverages Benjamin’s experience in the corporate world, as he trains undergraduate students to think critically about making a living as artists.

“My art and teaching is my investment in our future,” Benjamin said. “Thank you for considering investing in dreams like mine at GSU.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424

September 10, 2011