John Campbell

A Marine’s Path to Peace: Through Art

Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, 2018 | College of Arts and Sciences | Hometown: Blair, Oklahoma

John Campbell Student Portrait

Why did you choose UMKC?

I moved back to Oklahoma when I got out of the Marines, but I came to Kansas City to watch my niece graduate and I loved it. I moved to Kansas City on a whim. I don’t ever plan on leaving.

How did you end up studying art?

As a kid I enjoyed drawing, but no one in my family had an artistic mind. When I went into the Marine Corps, I didn’t draw at all. When I got out, the VA determined I was disabled with PTSD and depression. I had to find ways to try to help me transition into a more stable life as a civilian. Art therapy was one of my tools. The more time I spent on it, my skills just kept growing. Eventually I thought I could do this as a career. Art is a way that I can have a loud voice, but I don’t have to stand out in front of people and explain myself or talk about traumatic events.

“Art is a way that I can have a loud voice, but I don’t have to stand out in front of people and explain myself or talk about traumatic events.”

How did it feel to participate in your first art exhibition?

It was awesome. I took first place in undergraduates. It was a lot of hard work that paid off and I’m just anxious to do more of that. I’m really soaking in everything in the Fine Arts Building.

How has your college program inspired you?

It made me see that I can be a role model for younger veterans transitioning into college after their military careers. I am seeing that with art I can overcome the difficulties I have from the time I spent overseas. I want to change the art community with my artwork and the range of emotions it has, that only combat veterans will experience.

Would you consider being an art therapist?

No. I would like to do illustrations for younger adults or children. My idea is to bring adult-level artwork to kids. I think that infants seeing fine art would be like playing classical music to try to develop their brains. Instead of Berenstain Bears drawings, there would be actual elaborate drawings of bears and forests and nature to develop their imaginations.

What do you admire most about UMKC?

The diversity of students at UMKC has on its campus. I have been all over the world and most of the culture I’ve seen was during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I love to be able to see students from these areas happy and gaining a degree. I had harsh views on the Middle East because of the war, but meeting these students on campus helps me see the positivity in the fact that these were the people I was protecting overseas.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

Don’t fall into a comfort zone in artwork. Challenge yourself.