USC Aiken Fine Arts Prof Captures Scenes from Senegal

July 19, 2017

Some University of South Carolina Aiken faculty and students spent part of their summer break in exciting international locales, like Italy, Spain Germany – and Dakar, Senegal. 

Thanks in part to university and departmental grants, Fine Arts Professor Al Beyer spent 12 days in the coastal Western Africa city, photographically documenting the people, culture and landscape.  In addition, he sketched several iconic scenes, including colorful fishing boats; busy market streets; and the Baobob Tree, also known as the “Tree of Life.” 

“I like to get off the beaten path,” Beyer said. 

To date, he has traveled to at least 12 countries in at least as many years.  His adventures have yielded 131 paintings, 77 drawings, and 20 framed photos. 

Currently, his Senegal artwork is on display in the USC Aiken Etherredge Center – and will be until the end of July. 

While in West Africa, he often walked five miles a day and navigated the terrain by riding a crowded bus just to get to the location where he’d work – taking photos, sketching or painting – during the day.    Each day offered him a new setting where he set up to create his artistry for at least three to four hours before trekking back to his hotel. 

“I’d attract a crowd,” he said of his experiences working on a busy street or beach.  “The kids would gather all around.” 

Despite the possible distractions, he created at least one piece per day.  Some of the sketches he finished painting once he returned to the states -- with a suitcase full of canvases and additional insight on the world. 

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is considered the financial and political hub of the predominantly Muslim country. 

In addition to Senegal, Beyer has traveled to Rome and Florence, Italy; Paris and Normandy, France; London, England; Madrid, Toledo and Ronda in Spain; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Dublin, Galway, and Doolin in Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey; New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur in India; Beijing, China; and Siem Reap, Cambodia.  When he returns from these annual summer sabbaticals, Beyer teaches painting; drawing; figure drawing; the art of visual computing; 3D and animation; and digital illustration at USC Aiken. 

“I think what’s special about [Professor Beyer] is he’s not going to give a gold star for showing up.  He expects you to be interested and engaged in learning,” said Alyssa Tressler, a fine arts major expected to graduate May 2018. 

“He recognizes everyone’s work during critiques and takes the time to point out positives but always pushes students to do better.  The work you put in directly effects what you can produce, and that’s something I learned from him. 

“His dedication to art and the time he takes to help each of his students personally has made him one of the best professors I’ve had during my time here,” Tressler said.  “Enjoying yourself while creating and the process of art are what [Professor Beyer] focuses on, I think.” 

This year marks Beyer’s last on campus as he plans to retire at the end of the upcoming academic year.  While he may not be in a university classroom, he does intend to continue with art pursuits. 

“I’m a dedicated painter,” Beyer – who has spent 60 straight days painting in the past – said.  

“The best paintings are ahead of me.” 

Editor’s note:  In addition to the Dekar exhibit on display in the Etherredge Center, Professor Al Beyer’s landscapes are currently featured at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, 506 Telfair St., Augusta, Ga.  That show runs through August 4.

USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2017 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 19th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 12th time in first place.