Panther Profiles: Pam Venz

Panther Profiles: Pam Venz

By: Sana Silvera-Roy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Pam Venz is the Faculty Athletic Representative for Birmingham-Southern College and a professor in the art and art history department. Venz has been the FAR for three years, but has been involved with the men's soccer team for seven.

"I am the important point of contact for both coaches and students," she said.  "I treat every student like I'm dealing with my own child." A self-proclaimed team mom, Venz attends many soccer practices and encourages the student athletes.  "I don't have a job, I have a lifestyle," she added.

She received her undergraduate degree at Birmingham-Southern and went to graduate school at The Ohio State University.  After finishing her master's in 1985, she moved back to Birmingham and started her teaching career as an adjunct professor at BSC and never left.

"At first I was looking for a way to make a living," Venz said. "But I discovered that I loved the dynamic of being in a classroom.  I love that when you teach art there is no absolute right or no absolute wrongs."

Her medium is photography.  She is skilled in an array of types from portraits to abstracts, and has a background in sculptures as well. "I don't have a favorite type of photography," Venz explained. "But when I am out collecting inspiration for my work, I use digital. Currently I am working on 19th century processes specifically cyanotypes, Van Dyke's, and tintypes, which are produced on pieces of metal."

A native of Birmingham, Ala., Venz is an award-winning artist. In 2004, she received the Fellowship Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. And in 2012, Venz won second place at The Dogwood Arts Festival in Tennessee, for a digital photo that she took on her first trip to Iceland.

"The photo was a manipulated, abstracted space image," she said. "There were some reflective areas in the photo, and the way I framed it made the sense of space ambiguous and not as easily recognizable on your first time through."

Venz is an avid traveler. Some of her international trips include Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England, and Iceland.

"One of the best educational experiences my husband and I gave our children is travel," she added. "It's where I get my influences and ideas for my artwork."

Venz loves interacting with different cultures, no matter how big or small.  When asked what her favorite travel destination was, she said, "there's no way I can narrow it down to one, but my biggest fascination right now is Iceland because it has a connection to the athletics department."

From 2010-13, there were eight men's soccer players from Iceland on the team, along with her son. He became close with one of the goalkeepers and it was his family that helped her organize her family's first trip to Iceland.

 "When my family and I went, we toured the whole island and stayed for two weeks, and we only had to pay for four rooms because we were meeting and staying with different soccer families the whole time," explained Venz. 

In 2013, when her son graduated, Venz spoke of that time with a sense of accomplishment. "That year a big chunk of the eight students graduated.  We had a party at our house and invited the parents of the students over. As the parents were leaving, each of them came over to my husband and I, and said, 'Thank you so much for watching out for my kid, for just being there.'  That's what travel does."

Venz currently teaches three art courses: an entry-level course in camera mechanics and composition; an upper level course that covers chemistry and digital called alternative processes; and this semester, she is also teaching a course called photography as a witness. 

"This is a photojournalism, documentary, visual narrative class, that is totally taught in digital," she explained of the latter.

When asked what the average person doesn't know about her, Venz responded, "my husband was my major undergraduate professor and is 15 years my senior." After 33 years of marriage it must have been meant to be.