Cole grew up in Arlington, Texas, just outside the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He spent the first 16 years of his life in Texas, cultivating his love of art.
“I really benefited from the culture there, the art museums,” he said. “I grew up attending art classes at the Kimbell (Art Museum in Dallas), learning about Picasso when I was a little guy."
Cole said he didn’t get much art in school when he was a child. Instead, he and his classmates would meet a different artist once every six weeks.
“Being here, it’s nice to provide an experience I didn’t have when I was younger,” he said. “It’s close to my heart. I have a ball here doing what I do.”
How he found Prep: Cole moved to Augusta from Texas and attended Augusta State University. He had no plans to pursue art in college. Instead, he focused on communications - for a brief bit anyway, before losing interest. In the meantime, he continued painting on the side. He had yet to take the first art class in college when one day he decided to kill time between classes by taking his different paints and supplies to campus. Cole set up camp in the art studio.
“I figured I wasn’t doing any harm,” he said. “I would clean up my mess. I wouldn’t interrupt anyone’s work.”
While Cole painted a portrait, Morris Eminent Scholar of Art professor James Rosen dropped in the studio, walked by Cole and simply told him, “Nice work.” It was positive encouragement that led to Cole enrolling in Rosen’s classes. He was tough, Cole said, but Rosen brought out his best work.
While he continued finishing his degree, Cole began doing some teaching. Upon graduation, he set out to become an artist, returning to Texas. He spent five years in Austin, unexpectedly finding a job teaching at the University of Texas, leading evening classes in drawing and painting. The experience led him to wanting to make teaching a full-time profession.
What he enjoys about Prep:
Cole finished up his teaching degree at Texas State University. There, he did some student teaching at a local elementary school, finding that he enjoyed working with the younger students.
“I really fell in love working with young children and teaching them art,” he said. “They were like sponges. They were so enthusiastic about everything. They weren’t really concerned about precision and accuracy. They just loved to create. I just thought that was incredible.”
In the middle of his student teaching, Cole received a call from Augusta Prep Upper School art teacher Tara Chokshi about an opening at Prep. Cole first met Chokshi when he attended one of her drawing classes in downtown Augusta when he was in college. The two struck up a friendship, and he then did some substitute teaching for her at Prep.
Years later, Chokshi remembered Cole when a full-time position in the Lower and Middle School became available. Cole returned to Augusta, interviewed for the job and was offered two weeks later.
There are several things Cole said he loves about Augusta Prep - the freedom, the resources and the students. And there's more.
“I love the opportunities to be able to be flexible and change to fit student needs," he said. "Our world is changing dramatically. Having a growth mindset is very important. So two years ago, I decided that these kids are very interested in technology and they’re telling me they’re wanting to be gamers and video people and YouTube stars. So I started a stop-motion program in fifth grade, and it has been a great success. Being here allowed me to say OK, I’m going to switch gears and I’m going to go off the standard curriculum standards and offer a new opportunity. I’m going to invest in it and deliver it for my students. You can’t do that everywhere, but Prep makes that kind of possibility unique. That’s the great part about being at Prep, being able to be innovative and being encouraged to challenge yourself.Hobbies:
Favorite Artist: Vincent Van Gogh. Cole said he enjoys his work as an artist and his methods to become an artist. “The fact he worked consistently and continuously challenged himself for just 10 years as a painter and did everything in that timeframe and came to it really late, I find that inspirational. He’s a guy who had no formal training and taught himself everything.”
Biking, Hiking, Painting (he calls himself a regional painter, with a focus on landscapes and more traditional artwork, with an occasional dabble in abstract art. Find his artwork at his website