Brent Baggett was born in Kentucky in 1972. He received his BFA from Murray State University, KY and his MFA from Bard College, NY. Before starting a career in teaching, Brent worked as an art preparator at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and at Mid-Ocean Studio in Providence, RI, where he fabricated large-scale sculptures. Brent is currently living in Austin, TX and has been teaching art at Austin Community College since 2008. In addition to teaching, Brent designs and builds public sculpture through Oculi Studio LLC. His sculptures are installed in various locations around the country and in the state of Texas. For example, Tree Hugger (2013) at Schroeter Park in Austin, which was part of the city’s 2013-2014 TEMPO project.
Current Courses 2020-2021
ARTS 2348-Digital Media
Assistant Chair/Professor of Art
Is there another medium or area of research that you have always wanted to explore?
Kinetic Art is a medium that I would like to revisit. Many years ago, in college, I created a few moving sculptures that actually worked. Just like then, I’m still mesmerized by moving objects and I feel that this area has endless opportunities for expression. Sociology is another area of research that I would like to explore more. I’m intrigued by, and enjoy learning about, the internal and external forces that shape groups both large and small.
What do you most hope students will take away from your class?
I want students to know that their voice is important and worth sharing. Through art making, students create a point of view and try to communicate that visually. I hope that students will see that the art process is one of thinking, making, and sharing, and that it leads to a stronger community for all and illuminates their commonality with others. I have watched my point of view and personal identity change over the past forty years. These changes have been documented in the things I’ve made during that time. Making art has helped me to be mindful and react to life rather than unconsciously going through it. I hope I can communicate to students that actively processing and sharing your own experiences in life can be personally rewarding and help to connect with others during the journey.
What types of books do you read? What are you reading now and/or what is one of the most treasured books on your bookshelf?
The last book I read was Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Most of the new information that I’m acquiring now has been in the form of podcasts. My current podcast favorites are Secret History of the Future, Shortwave and Happiness Lab. My all-time favorite fiction writer has to be Flannery O’Conner. I’m certain that I actually know some of the characters from her novels and short stories.
Name one place that you’ve traveled to, but feel like you need to go back to because you didn’t have enough time there.
I visited Costa Rica about eleven years ago and wish I could go back. I made the mistake of trying to see too much of the country in the week we had to visit. One of my most cherished memories from that trip was marveling at a six inch, brightly-colored caterpillar and a toucan just outside of my hotel window. The jungle environment is so saturated with exotic creatures and plant life that when I return, I hope to stay near the Arenal Volcano and just prioritize hiking, recording, and absorbing the wonderful sights.
What do you like to do for fun? Is there something that only people that know you really well would know?
My two current favorite activities are building Lego models with my son and mountain biking with friends and family. By building Lego models, I mean that I find pieces while my son actually builds the model. We were building Star Wars ships but have moved into architecture sets recently. For biking, we ride weekly at Walnut Creek and Brushy Creek park. Earlier this Summer, we ventured as far as Bentonville, Arkansas to ride their amazing trail network.
What is an early experience with art or a specific artwork that made you decide to pursue a career in the arts? How has that experience shaped you and/or how do you view art differently now?
I learned to draw to try to impress a girl in elementary school. Melissa drew the same island with palm trees over and over. I learned to draw the exact same island to see if she’d notice. Turns out she never noticed, but I actually kept up with drawing. My enthusiasm for art was noticed in middle school by the art teacher and she gave me special projects to advance my skills that included a temporary mural on the windows of a local grocery store. That mural opportunity cemented my dedication to being an artist.
Another special moment in my art development was when I took a beginning drawing class in college. The professor was the most passionate instructor I had ever seen. I had to take his advanced drawing class even though it was at 7 AM! I’ve never been a morning person but I attended his 7 AM advanced drawing classes every semester until I graduated. Another pivotal moment in my art development was, after earning my graduate degree, I went to work with sculptor Brower Hatcher in Providence, RI. Before becoming a professional sculptor, Brower was a college professor for twelve years. He was my employer, but he made it feel like I was in sculpture class. He cared about my opinion and taught me about working with metal and seeing a long-term project all the way to completion. Through that experience, I now have my own career, outside of teaching, designing and making large scale metal sculpture for public commissions.
[Brower Hatcher hotlink
If you could study under or interact with any living or historical artist, who would it be?
I would have liked to study under Martin Puryear. His love of form and materials is something that I think we have in common. My second choice would be Frank Stella. I’m inspired by his ability to reinvent his art at various stages in his life. I think the art that he’s making at age 70 and 80 is more interesting than the art he’s famous for from the 50s. I would like to be around his ageless creative energy.
[Martin Puryear hotlink
Frank Stella hotlink
What is your superpower? How do you most make an impact?
Nine reasons that Empathy with students is my superpower.
1) My great grandparents were sharecroppers.
2) I was the first person in my family to go to college.
3) My parents wanted me to study engineering, but I majored in art instead.
4) I dropped out of a four-year college a year after starting and went to community college.
5) I went back to a four-year college and finished my last two years making only A’s.
6) I applied to graduate school three times before getting accepted.
7) I was a country kid that went to graduate school made up of mostly New Yorkers.
8) For every ten public art opportunities I apply for, I’m only awarded one.
9) I persisted with my education and I’m so glad I did.
What do you think that Austin/ACC is uniquely placed to offer?
I’m delighted to teach in the art department at ACC. We have a talented and caring faculty and staff, wonderful new facilitates, and a growing and diverse student community. I see caring all around me. The institution cares about its employees, the professors care about their students, and the students care about enriching their life through education. I’m gushing since I’ve seen so many great things happening recently through ACC’s student success initiative and the proven support that ACC is creating and offering during the Covid-19 pandemic.