Art Department ranked first in nation

Union Art student in painting class

Featuring everything from graphic design to art therapy, Union University’s Art department has grown exponentially over the last several years and, this past week, celebrated a number one ranking by Christian Universities Online as the best art department in the nation.

Christian Universities Online is an independent online resource committed to providing prospective students with current and accurate information about the social factors, scholastic achievements and spiritual development of Christian Universities nation-wide.

Twenty years ago, Union’s department of Art was only a budding curriculum with a handful of students and programs.

“When I first arrived here twenty years ago, there was no art on the walls, no sculptures outside the PAC,” said Lee Benson, chair of the department.

Now, art enlivens every hallway and courtyard with paintings and innovative sculptures on display.

Both former President David Dockery and current President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver have been avid supporters of Union’s pursuit of art, and Benson credits much of the department’s growth and success in these last several years to their consistent encouragement.

Union Art student practicing ceramics
Union Art student practicing ceramics

During his years as president, Dockery often said he hoped that one day Union’s Art department would cease to be known as “the Wheaton of the South” and that Wheaton’s department would rather come to be known as “the Union of the North.”

“The truth is that art is loud and noisy and smoky and often controversial, but thanks to the administration’s unwavering support of our department’s attempts to portray truth through art, I believe we are able to provide our students with top-notch state-of-the-art equipment and instruction,” Benson said.

Benson believes that it is incumbent upon the learning artist to pursue truth through art and that no truth is too controversial or uncomfortable to leave unexplored.  He says that it is the Art department’s relentless commitment to engage in cultural dialogue, through art, that sets Union’s department of Art apart from other Christian departments throughout the nation.

“Union’s Art department is not only one of the closest-knit communities on campus, but it teaches students to become familiar with the materials and to maximize their resources,” senior art major, Oliva Avery, said. “The other week, a group of us went to visit the Art department at U.T. Knoxville and, even though they had a three-story building dedicated solely to art, and massive amounts of equipment, their students were not producing the caliber of work that we are pushed to produce here.”

The department has nine separate programs including a newly-developed Art Therapy program which, according to Benson, has been “hugely successful.”

To learn more about the department of Art’s programs and ratings contact Lee Benson at or visit the official website at



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