Faculty Spotlight: Humanities professor’s art know-how elevates courses

Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Photo: Trent Tomengo lectures in front of his paintings. Photography by Ash M. Photography.

Fun Facts:
Favorite dessert: Cheesecake
Skill you want to learn: Build furniture
Favorite artist(s): Depends on the day, but Wassily Kandinsky, Aaron Douglas, Archibald Motley, Botticelli, Titian, Vermeer, Fred Wilson, Josef Albers, Peter Paul Rubens. For me, “favorite” is determined by the things I can learn from an artist’s work, which help me in creating my own works.
“Making art is about sharing yourself with total strangers,” admitted Professor of Humanities Trent Tomengo. His career has taken him through the military, graphic design and museum curation, but he found his home teaching the humanities at Seminole State College of Florida. As a professor, he uses his background as a professional artist to help his students gain a greater understanding of the world around them. “Human beings were drawing and painting as cave people long before they could even write,” said Tomengo, who views art-making as essential as eating or sleeping.
Son of Man, 2004, Oil on Linen, 12"x24"

In his career as a professional artist, he specializes in portraiture. “What draws me to portraiture is people,” said Tomengo. “All of my work is based on people and the dignity that each person deserves as a human being.” He has done portraits based on religious and historical themes as well as those that draw on the subjects’ personal lives.

Before putting any marks on canvas, he takes time getting to know his subject, both through conversation and careful study to appropriately channel their intentions, energy and aspirations. He paints his portraits by mounting detail, breaking down each area into more and more specific color tones to capture the right highlights and shadows.

Tomengo brings this same attention to detail into his humanities courses. He uses a clearly organized curriculum and a transparent grading system to help set up his students for success. “I show my enthusiasm for what I am teaching, which in turn, enables them to be excited about what they are learning,” said Tomengo. For him, the best thing about teaching is seeing the spark of interest in students about ideas and art and watching them incorporate it into their lives.

Trent, 2019, Oil on Canvas, 3.5'x7'

His breadth of experience allows him to bring a unique perspective to his teaching. His humanities students benefit from his artistic background as they explore different time periods’ cultures, giving them an insight to technique and methodology. As a former assistant curator at the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Tomengo can provide students with an insider’s look at museums as educational institutions and their value to society.

To those starting out in college, Tomengo advises them to “Stick to the educational program until you attain the degree despite any misgivings you may have or any misgivings anyone else has about you.” If you are interested in seeing more of Tomengo’s work, you can visit his site trenttomengo.com. If you want to learn more about Seminole State’s upcoming humanities courses, visit seminolestate.edu/catalog/courses/hum.

About Seminole State College

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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