Grant Gill grew up in a small Alabama town hidden away from the broad horizons of the fine arts he discovered at Belmont University in Nashville. In 2012, Grant entered the BFA program in Design Communications aspiring for a career in a creative agency and ultimately becoming a freelance designer.
A critique in a 3D Design foundation course set him on a different path when Professor John Watson prompted him to consider, “What is that about? Art doesn’t have to be anything; it can be anything.” From that point forward in Grant’s undergraduate career, he was inspired by the thought-provoking readings assigned by Professor Watson, who became his mentor. They urged him to consider to discover how form and meaning can be integrated.
Beginning with the framework set out by thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Jacques Maritain, T.S. Eliot and others, Gill began a body of sculpture that was designed to assist him in conceptualizing the nature of a transcendent reality through physical objects. The paradox of immaterial experience manifesting through physical sculptures was an idea on which Grant obsessed. Eventually, the project evolved into an exhibit of nine sculptures and seven large-scale drawings installed in Gallery 121 in the Leu Center for Visual Arts at Belmont University as his Honors Senior Thesis. The exhibit’s title, I do not mean Ecclesiastical Art, was derived from an essay by French philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973). In the essay, Maritain describes the difference between “Ecclesiastical art,” of a specific religion or church, and “Christian art,” the natural art produced in a spiritual mindset.
Grant said, “I chose the excerpt, ‘I do not mean Ecclesiastical Art,’ because it is the perfect expression of what I am pursuing. There is a spiritual nature to my work that is inextricably tied to my core beliefs. But unlike Ecclesiastical art, all are invited to step into and experience a foreign spiritual world.”
Grant matured into a dedicated and emerging artist during his undergraduate studies in Belmont’s Department of Art, which earned him numerous accolades. These included the Rising Senior Award, Balleehoo Award, Outstanding Student of the Year and a Leu Art Scholarship in addition to receiving the American Advertising Federation’s 2016 Regional Student Addy Award.
Now, recently graduated, Grant’s vision of the future is quite different. His experiences at Belmont University — an institution focused on a service-oriented private liberal arts education — generated new interests in teaching and traveling to broaden his horizons even further. Grant will be spending his first post-graduate year in Slovakia on a Fulbright Grant that will enable him to teach and continue creating art. Slovakia seemed the perfect country to which to apply because it is no more than an hour by train from major art centers of East-Central Europe such as Prague, Budapest and Vienna. Grant is quick to point back to John Watson and his time at Belmont as the spark that lit his passion for sculpture as a medium of expression.