A passion for sharing art with others

A passion for sharing art with others

An artist by nature, Dorothy “Dottie” Brown, ’81, was chair of Georgia College’s Art Department for 16 years, starting in 1985. However, she did so much more. Her involvement with the community speaks volumes. She continues to share her gift of art with the community and encourages others to follow suit.
During her time as chair of the Art Department, Brown taught and advised students. 

“I just loved it," she said. “I also loved teaching. When you advise students within your department, you really get to know them.” 

The thing she was most proud of during her tenure was to secure more space in two newly renovated buildings for the Art Department: Blackbridge Hall, which housed faculty offices, and Mayfair, which contained art studios and faculty offices. Later, the department was eventually given Ennis Hall. Prior to obtaining these spaces, the department was located in the basement of Porter Hall.  

“The one thing I was really proud of is that we got space,” Brown said. “The students and faculty had more space to create.”  

When Brown started her career as chair of the Art Department, there were three faculty members. She was tasked with building the department and finding quality faculty. By the time she retired, there were 11 faculty positions. 

“I really felt good about increasing space and the number of faculty and students,” she said. “I also really felt good about the quality of students we were turning out. These students had a good foundation in art history, design and techniques. We had students major in art therapy, art history and many areas of studio art.”  

Dottie Brown displays her religious icon paintings.
Dottie Brown displays her religious icon paintings.

In the beginning of her term as chair, Brown also taught jewelry making, drawing, painting and design, while one faculty member taught art history and art appreciation and the other faculty member taught weaving and design. 

“It was one of those situations where all the faculty pitched in until we could gradually increase the number,” she said. Their work with the students and the presentation of the material they taught was outstanding.”

Although Brown already had an undergraduate and master’s degree in art education, she wanted to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from Georgia College.

“I went to see Dr. Joe Specht, who was head of the School of Business. And he said, ‘Dottie, we’re so happy to have you here,’” she said. “Then, Georgia College enrolled me in accounting. I’ll never forget my accounting professor. I felt so sorry for him, because whenever he had office hours, I was in his office for assistance. It was interesting to a certain point. Accounting is definitely not for right-brained people, but I got through it with help. The remaining course work was very interesting and challenging.”

She took the principles she learned from the School of Business and applied them to the Art Department, the classroom, as well as the Mary Vinson Library, where she served as chair of the board for 10 years.

When she was chair of the library, the director and his assistant resigned, which meant Brown had to assume that role until an interim director was assigned.  

“I looked at the library’s staff and said, ‘OK, what has to be done right now?’ That’s what you do. I applied those principles that I had learned at Georgia College from one area to another.”

When the interim director of the library arrived, Brown and the staff had a brief period of time to figure out what characteristics and skills would be best in a new director. 

“We did what needed to be done until the interim director took over, so that when we hired a permanent director, everything ran smoothly.”

“When I was art department chair, I learned you sit down with your faculty and listen to them. You do as much of the busy work for them as you possibly can,” said Brown. “And, you rely on them to push the goals and ideals that your department wants to pass onto the students.”

Brown wanted her students to gain a sense of community, so she had them go to the Mary Vinson Library to do puppet shows and to local elementary schools to work with the students in art. 

“My art students made the puppets and did puppet shows,” she said. “I also sent them out to the public elementary schools, because art wasn’t offered to these students at that time. Trying to integrate art into the schools and the lives of children was really rewarding. I loved it.” 

“Trying to integrate art into the schools and the lives of children was really rewarding. I loved it.”
– Dottie Brown

Brown still works with some of the library staff to do workshops on bookbinding. She also has been painting religious icons for nearly 25 years. Her Byzantine, early medieval graduate studies in Europe sparked her interest in painting them.

“Religious icons are somewhat flat and have no depth in the background. One doesn't see a lot of shading with lights and darks—all the elements that make a figure three dimensional,” said Brown. “When the early church started painting the icons, they used this method to keep people from using them as an idol. Instead, they were used to teach people history of the church and the lives of the saints.”

Brown has worked alongside many international iconographers learning to paint religious icons. A large icon can take several months to paint, while the smaller ones take less time.  She uses egg tempura—a painting medium that the icon painters used during the Byzantine and early middle ages.
Dottie Brown's religious icon paintings.
Dottie Brown's religious icon paintings.

When Brown retired as chair of the Art Department, she asked to have an exhibit. Georgia College invited students and alumni she had taught to participate. She exhibited three large icon paintings—the Christ figure, St. John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary and several smaller ones of saints. 

“It was really a pleasure to see how the skills of our alumni had grown and how their work and techniques had developed,” she said. “Some of them were in master’s programs and some of them had continued to work in the art field.”

Brown donated the large icons from the exhibit, plus several other icons to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Milledgeville. 

Today, she teaches a class in icon painting each year at St. Stephen's. 

“If you have a talent or gift that God has given you, you have to share it,” Brown said. “Failure to share knowledge or a gift you have been given is selfish.”