It’s Never Too Late
August 2022 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
Art Pictured by Aurora Pope
Aurora Pope, who was recently granted full tenure as an art professor at the College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA), never planned on a career in teaching. “I got my undergraduate degree in anthropology,” said Aurora, who moved to the Golden Isles from Tennessee in 2015 when her husband, Brian, was offered a professorship in psychology at CCGA.
However, during her senior year at the University of Georgia, her Plan A took a turn. “I had to participate in an excavation. We found human remains, and I freaked out!” said Aurora, laughing. “I thought then, ‘maybe anthropology isn’t the thing for me!”
At that point, Aurora said she began taking her love of painting more seriously, while professionally, she spent “lots and lots of time in retail and restaurant work, which was easy to find in Athens (Ga.).” In the meantime, she had gotten married and followed her husband to Tennessee when he landed a job with East Tennessee State. “I took a job as a clerical assistant for an art professor, who very gently told me I really wasn’t very good at being a clerical assistant, and I should consider going to graduate school instead,” she laughed.
Aurora took the professor’s advice and earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in painting. “I’m 55 now, and I got by MFA in 2008, so, there were a few years of indecision there!” she said. “And I’ve been teaching ever since.
“Tennessee had a tuition program that worked out rather nicely and allowed me to teach along the way, and I discovered that I actually loved teaching and have been loving it ever since.”
Aurora says her love for art and teaching have fit nicely together. “I had always made stuff and loved the arts.” She also said she thinks she inherited that love from her Italian artist mother. “She also taught Italian and French, but her generation—she was born in 1929—didn’t get the same opportunities as women do today.”
Although Aurora says she’s “officially a painter,” she loves to explore and teach other art mediums as well. “I love making books and would love to teach a book arts class. I also love to draw, and I’ve recently been exploring manipulating the surface of paper.”
She said she gets inspiration from other artists, especially German painter Anselm Kiefer. “I want to be him when I grow up,” Aurora said. Daniel Innes, Daniel Essig and Magdalena Abakanowicz have also “been among the most influential artists for me.”
While she loves teaching all her classes, including art appreciation, Aurora is looking forward to expanding her teaching topics and excited to introduce students to more areas of art expression.
“One class I love to teach is 3-D design. That allows me to play. Although I’m not really a 3-D artist, I like to pretend I am,” she said, chuckling. “I’ve also taught a class in American art that I’m changing to a topic class. Last semester I taught indigenous art, and I’m going to be teaching African American art. There are just so many different directions to go in, and I’m so excited about that.”
Pride & Joy: One child, Kevin Pope, who just graduated from the College of Coastal Georgia with a degree in American Studies.”
Origins: “I was a government brat. My dad was in the Army, so I grew up all over the place.
Promotion: After initially joining the faculty of CCGA as a part-time instructor, she has been promoted to an associate professor and is now the college’s only faculty member teaching art full-time.
Personal Artwork: “The most recent showing of my work was at the St. Simons Welcome Center in 2020. I haven’t had any shows since the virus, but I just finished a series of paintings, so who knows what’s next?”
Favorite Museums: “I love the High (in Atlanta). I used to take students there all the time. I also love the art museums in New York. I got to take students from East Tennessee to New York. It was so amazing to see these kids, some who had never been out of East Tennessee, actually getting to see works they had only seen on a computer screen. We didn’t have much time, so we didn’t get to see as many as I would have liked, but we did get to see several museums, including MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and the Guggenheim.”
Family Finds: She was recently able to track down, via Facebook, a cousin and uncle in Italy.
Local Favorite Eats: Basil’s in downtown Brunswick and
the Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons.
Culinary Arts: She grew up learning to cook Italian food from her mother, and that is her and her husband’s favorite cuisine to make together. “We also love to garden together, and we have a pretty successful raised garden.”
Four-Legged Family: A 14-year-old mutt rescue named Mr. Noodles, and four cats. “I’m on my way to becoming that crazy cat lady, and I’ve embraced that.”