Former PCC Student Thrilled to Have Name on Smith Center Art Gallery
WINTERVILLE—Though he never expected to see his creations displayed in a public art gallery bearing his name, that’s been the case for Pitt Community College alumnus Michael Aman Jr. since April – and it’s a dream come true.
When PCC administrators cut the ribbon on the college’s new 28,000-square-foot Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Center for Student Advancement, it also marked the official opening of the Michael Aman Jr. Gallery. In the two months since, visitors to the Smith Center have gotten a sense of Aman’s artistic range and attention to detail while touring the first-floor gallery.
“At first, when I heard that they were setting up a gallery named after me, I was surprised, for I never quite expected this to happen to me,” Aman says. “Wow, what a blessing; I am so grateful to PCC for this honor.”
The 30-year-old Aman, who counts art, reading, writing, history and pirates among his hobbies and interests, said he felt gratitude upon seeing his PCC exhibit for the first time. He realized it was an opportunity to share his art with others in the hope of inspiring them to be creative.
“We create because we were created by God, the supreme Creator,” he says. “… He has gifted me with the ability to create, and I am blessed by that gifting.”
Along with a painting, pen-and-ink drawing and self-portrait, Aman’s exhibit features a combination of sculptures, figures and metal jewelry – nearly all sharing a pirate theme. He says the Long John Silver puppet – complete with shoulder parrot, wooden crutch, looking glass, map and treasure chest – is his favorite item on display.
“To me, (Long John Silver) is an iconic figure of literature,” he says. “From Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island,’ he is one of the best stereotypes of how a pirate is portrayed and viewed. In the story, I love his crafty cleverness and character, despite the fact that he’s a traitorous mutineer.”
A Greenville native, Aman’s been drawing since he was a child. Over the years, he says he branched out to painting and projects involving various materials, such as paper mâché, ceramics and metals.
Despite a learning disability, Aman attended Elmhurst and Eastern elementary schools before moving on to E.B. Aycock Middle School. Ultimately, his parents, Mike and Page, joined two other couples with children who had learning disabilities to start the Greenville Learning Center (GLC) in coordination with Pitt County Schools.
After graduating from GLC, Aman enrolled at Pitt in 2014 and began taking courses on metalsmithing, painting, ceramics, sculptures and drawings. He said he especially enjoyed the metals and sculpture classes and added that working with wood was a thrill, saying, “I felt like I could make almost anything [with wood], particularly my puppet figures.”
Aman says he had an “outstanding” experience as a PCC student and is grateful for the support and kindness he received from faculty and staff, particularly Charity Jules, who was his academic adviser.
Though Jules, who is chair of PCC’s Associate in Fine Arts Department, never taught Aman in class, she says he was “an extraordinary student” and fixture in the college’s Fine Art studios for nearly nine years. She added that his “creativity and imagination were a constant inspiration” to classmates.
“When Michael was in classes here, he was such an important part of our community,” Jules said. “In critiques, he would tell elaborate stories to explain the characters he had created, and he would also be generous in his feedback to others.”
Instead of seeking an academic credential, Jules said Aman focused on fine-tuning his artistic skills by taking many of the Fine Arts program’s classes several times.
“Michael’s work simply inspires joy,” she said. “I’ve never seen anyone see his work and not marvel at the level of detail and creative use of materials.”
Aman says he truly appreciates the techniques and skills he developed at Pitt and that he and his family contributed to the PCC Foundation to name the Smith Center art gallery because of everything the college had done to educate him and so many others.
“It was a great opportunity for me to have this instruction at PCC,” he said. “And I am excited for all the students that attend PCC and the opportunity they are provided as well.”
For anyone interested in viewing Aman’s work, the Michael Aman Gallery is open during normal PCC operating hours. It is free and open to the public.