Purdue Profiles:  Tom Eismin

September 28, 2010

Tom Eismin, professor of aviation technology and chair of University Visual Arts Committee, stands next to the Kaikoo VI sculpture in Pickett Memorial Park. The sculpture, brought to Purdue by UVAC, was installed in 1987 and has moved to various locations around campus. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Tom Eismin, hot air balloon pilot, sailor, woodworker and former art glass studio co-owner, says there are too many toys and not enough hours in the day to support all of his interests, but he still finds time to promote artwork on campus.

From sculptures in Pickett Memorial Park to posters in a tunnel, Eismin, professor of aviation technology and chair of University Visual Arts Committee, hopes the campus community finds inspiration from the creativity and alternative perspectives artwork elicits.

How did you become interested in aviation?

I’ve been involved in aviation since I was 14. I got attached to the allure of the sky and the ability to move freely in it. I’m from an electronic family, so I had a background in that, which supported my interest in aviation. I was in the aviation industry for a while, and now I teach aircraft electronic systems.

What is the University Visual Arts Committee?

UVAC is an arm of the University Senate that purchases or leases artwork for major installation in larger classrooms or on campus. The Print and Poster Exchange is another element of UVAC that’s really popular. Every year faculty and staff trade in posters to refresh their walls and add color to their space.

I decided it would be a good committee for me to serve on because of the advantages I believe art brings students and the community.

What kind of advantages are those?

UVAC sees visual art as helping to promote creativity. We want people to walk into a room or a space outside and be exposed to a creative, visual experience. Those kinds of creative experiences allow our minds to think openly and freely, even in an engineering or science discipline.

Why do you think the Print and Poster Exchange is such a big hit?

Posters aren’t what a lot of people would call art, but they are a lot of bang for the buck. If you choose posters that are artistic and tend to have a creative nature to them, they can promote creative thinking and make bland walls a little happier.

It’s an exciting event, like the first day of holiday sales at Macy’s. Everyone wants the best selection and the freshest posters. We have a policy where people can donate to UVAC and attend the exchange first. The exchange is free, though.

Is there any connection between your involvement in aviation and the arts?

Aviation, being a technical, engineering-type curriculum, is very structured, but a connection to and involvement in the arts helps people see outside the box. The University is constantly promoting a more diverse education for its students. Diversity helps us think slightly differently and see different points of view.

I think the fact that there is no connection is the connection between aviation and art. Art allows me to see things from different perspectives in my work.

What kind of artwork do you enjoy most?

My favorite artwork is simply that of local artists. It is unique and nuanced. I certainly like the big names we are all exposed to, but local and student works seem to be more experimental and more edgy. I have a lot of student and local artist displays in my home.

Do you do any art yourself?

People have said I do artwork. I like to work with wood, and I use some unusual combinations of wood. I’ve done everything from vases and jewelry boxes to tables and stairways.

What is your favorite part of being involved in UVAC?

When we purchase student artwork for permanent installation on campus and the student is extremely grateful. In some cases we help launch the career of an up-and-coming student artist. The reactions are usually ecstatic.

From a long-lasting perspective, it’s great that the Lafayette and West Lafayette communities have embraced our work. Sculptures and public art from campus have spilled out into both communities, and, of course, the communities have brought art to campus. It’s a nice back and forth.

More information
For more information about UVAC or the Print and Poster Exchange, visit https://engineering.purdue.edu/UVAC/About/index_local. The exchange is scheduled for Oct. 11-13.

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