By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

If you’ve noticed a new mace at San Jacinto College commencement ceremonies, Jeffrey McGee is the man behind the design.

The department chair of fine arts at San Jacinto College grew up in a small town east of Buffalo, New York, having started his art career working in an art gallery in graduate school. He has since worked in Kansas City as a docent for the Arabia Steamboat Museum and served as a studio assistant for the renowned national history sculptor Gary Staab. He began teaching art full time at San Jacinto College in 2011.

McGee holds an associate degree in computer animation from the Art Institute of Pittsburg, a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in metalsmithing from the University of Kansas.

What inspired you to pursue art?

Art is in my family. I have several cousins who are involved in the arts in some way, so my generation in particular was always encouraged to pursue the things we loved to do. When I as a kid, I read comic books and watched a lot of animation. I especially loved Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes, Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes and the comic artist Alex Ross.

What inspires you to teach art?

I love promoting problem solving in the academic setting. I find that it is the best preparation for anyone’s chosen career, no matter the discipline. Art is the best vehicle for this in that there can be multiple solutions to a single problem. I always stress to my students to believe in their instincts and opinions, but be able to back them up through practice and study.

What was your inspiration for the mace?

Its design was inspired by San Jacinto College. It represents the effect we have on the students, employees and community members we serve.

What materials did you use?

The handle is walnut, and the metal components are made from sterling silver, copper, and a brass alloy called NuGold. The stars were carved from wax by one of my former students Eden Lopez, and I then cast them in sterling silver. The rest of the metalwork was fabricated from sheet metal and wires.

What would you like people to know about the mace?

I’d like them to see themselves and our institution reflected in its design. It was created entirely by hand as an echo of the grit and determination it takes to make students successful in their chosen path.

In addition to serving as a professor, what other projects do you have throughout the area?

I focus on my job here at San Jacinto College primarily, but I have found time to create a few original pieces in the past few years that have been shown at invitational group exhibitions nationally.

What would you like for people to know about today’s art scene?

The art world can be difficult to break into, but the most important thing I could tell prospective art professionals would be to network. Get to know the people involved with galleries, exhibitions and studios. Houston in particular has a strong art scene if you put in the time and effort to be a part of it.