If Murphy Hall is the closet of Arcadia University, Alan Powell is the man that keeps everything from spilling out as soon as you open the door.
I had just changed my major to screen media when the pandemic hit, and remote learning only deepened my fear that I would be behind, socially and academically. A couple of semesters into Zoom classrooms, I had Professor Alan Powell for Visual Media and the Web and Video Production II and suddenly I no longer felt like the new kid. Alan’s enthusiasm for each of his student’s work and individual craft was displayed by his constant attempts at organizing collaborative pieces between students. Whether or not it was his intention, most of the friendships, connections and collaborative art I’ve made in Murphy Hall was through his meddling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been introduced to one of my media & communication peers through the question,“Do you know where Alan is?” Now, I’m graduating and Alan is retiring, so it only makes sense to honor everything he’s brought (physically and symbolically) to the media & communications department.
Alan Powell has been working as a visual artist for over fifty years, and he’s developed and fought for his artistic voice as a professor at Arcadia University. As an artist, he studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University, receiving a B.F.A. and M.F.A., respectively. His art ranges from acrylic and gouache to collaborative video and digital imaging and has been shown in The Kitchen, The Alternative Museum, and The Museum of the Moving Image in New York, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, The Long Beach Museum in California, and the Musee d’Arte Moderne in Paris. A large majority of his video work was done in collaboration with his late partner Connie Coleman; their work together spanned thirty years. On his “About Me” on the Arcadia University website he says “I am a strong believer in collaboration and art being connected to the social.” As many students of his could tell you, this statement is echoed in his curriculum .
His role in the media and communications department can only be described as Dumbledore-esque because of his elusive yet somehow also consistent guidance. Alan’s dedication to experimentation made every class feel like a place to discuss topics openly and casually. He actively fought for the rights of his student’s artistic voice when a TItle IX investigation was held in regards to a 2017 anti-trump art installation created by the video collective, Termite TV. Alan even went as far as encouraging other students who disliked the art installation to protest saying that “students are welcome to deface the art work, [p]ut up protest signs, have a forum, whatever you want to do. In non-violent protest you are taught to make your opponent show their hand. T[h]is is all part of the process to keep this an open University and a free society. Y[o]u may do whatever you want .. it becomes part of the show.” Alan Powell’s dedication to art even when administration is telling him to be silent is an important quality that makes him such an influential professor and figure of the media and communications corner of Murphy Hall.
We were lucky enough to interview Alan, and we spent some time getting to know him further and reflecting on his years at Arcadia University. Listen here:
Below is some recent artwork by Alan Powell, more can be found on his website, alanpowellartist.com.