Art Department welcomes new faculty member, Michael Reese

This fall, Westminster welcomed many new faculty and staff, in particular the new graphic design and photography teacher, Michael Reese. A highly accomplished artist, Reese has connected well with students so far, heightening their love for visual arts.

Reese began his photography career in high school, and his first class in college was a photography course. Originally planning to become a business major at Morehouse College, Reese transferred to SCAD to pursue his passion. There, he was introduced to graphic design.

“I’ve always done art, but I just became overwhelmed by photography,” said Reese. “I stopped doing all other types of art, and photography started to consume me.”

Immediately after graduating from college, Reese began teaching in charter schools through the Atlanta Public School system in DeKalb County. However, his experience caused him to burn out quickly. Looking for a change, he entered the corporate sector for photography and graphic design. Soon after, he heard about Westminster through faculty member and close friend Okorie Johnson, and he began to miss teaching. After a few visits to Westminster, Reese knew it was the perfect fit to what he could offer and what the school could offer to him. So far, Reese’s teaching style has resonated well with his students.

“I am taking graphic design this year,” said junior Frances Brown. “I really like the way he teaches because he starts out by teaching us concepts on Photoshop or Illustrator and then he gives us creatively freeing assignments where we can demonstrate the skills we’ve learned.”

Reese offers a very unique perspective when it comes to his teaching. Though he is a teacher, he always keeps in mind that he is also a professional in the photography and graphic design field.

“Many times with creative careers, here and with students I’ve taught in previous years, the path is not always clear,” said Reese. “This can be terrifying for students and parents.”

Reese noted that despite difficulties in his pursuit of an art career, he has created a successful path.

“I have always been able to pursue and do creating things that pertained to my degree and all the money I spent in art school and have it make sense, and that is the perspective I want to leave my students with,” said Reese.

Working with Reese has definitely helped students find a passion in art. Teaching both Graphic Design and Photography, Reese incorporates similar techniques in both classes. Graphic Design is a more commercially minded course, whereas Photo I and II lead students down the fine arts path. Both courses complete multiple projects over the year; for example, Graphic Design students have the opportunity to create movie posters in correspondence to the four seasons. The class looked at posters created in the past, and then Reese let them try making thoughtful and intelligent designs themselves that would ultimately make the viewer pause. The project came very close to what Reese would do with a personal piece, outside of teaching.

“Graphic Design has been my first art class in high school,” said junior Lindsay Vincent. “My sister took it when she was in high school and the projects she did looked really interesting, which inspired me to take it.”

Vincent noticed that the assignments in Reese’s graphic design were very purposeful, and Reese was supportive of every student’s design concept.

“The assignments he gives aren’t just random; they are supposed to function to help us in different areas which is really nice,” said Vincent.

Outside of teaching, Reese is very active with his work and in the Atlanta community. He exhibits regularly through the traditional gallery system and has been included in numerous public art exhibitions, such as The Shape of a Pocket at Sandler Hudson Gallery, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  Reese is known for his fine art and public art, and plans to open a new studio in January. He recently finished a two-man show, and a gallery in Midtown Atlanta currently sells his work. Reese’s work is also featured in select private and public collections at the High Museum, Clark Atlanta University, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, and Agnes Scott College, among others.

“I’m quite busy when I’m not teaching,” said Reese. “I’ve definitely had to pull back a bit since I started teaching, but I did many projects beforehand, such as a book released by Atlanta Celebrating Photography that features some of my work and a temporary public art project hanging in Savannah.”

Ultimately, Reese wants to give his students real world examples, good and bad, of what it is like to choose a creative career path. In his personal work, he does not like to make straightforward art. He likes to make thoughtful pieces that intrigue the viewer and make them think, a technique Reese passes on to his students.

“Mr. Reese has definitely inspired me to be a better designer,” said Brown. He also encourages me to keep shooting in film and is teaching me how to develop it as a side interest, which spurs on my creativity and inspires me to go out on photo shoots more often.”

The knowledge and enthusiasm Mr. Reese presents to his classes is seemingly infectious, which incites more and more curiosity in his students every day. Because Reese draws from a professional background in fine arts, he provides an example and a perspective to his students which is invaluable.

“He has shown me that I can actually pursue an art career in the future,” said Brown.