During her first run at college, Brittni Johnson’s primary focus at Lander University was on her stellar athletic career. A former basketball player, Johnson joined in the women’s basketball team’s triumphs in winning their first NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament Championship, as well as the first Elite Eight appearance in program history. She also scored 1,000 career points while at Lander, and was twice named to the Peach Belt Conference All-Tournament Team.
“I shared the floor with several great athletes,” she said, “and also met several more in other sports.”
After taking a break from college life, Johnson chose to return to Lander to finish her art degree. She assembled what she called her “going back to school dream team,” and in 2021, she received her Bachelor of Science in Visual Art.
And shortly after, Johnson found herself “back in the paint” as a graduate student in Lander’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Visual Art K-12 program. She completed her master’s degree in the fall of 2022.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that I would be pursuing this degree,” she said. While a coaching career had crossed her mind before, Johnson had never thought of herself as a classroom teacher. Yet, it was Professor of Art Elizabeth Snipes who persuaded her to consider a career as an art educator, where Johnson could inspire student growth artistically, athletically and academically, on the court and in the studio.
After months of conversations with Snipes and Professor of Art Sandy Singletary, of the Department of Art + Design, Johnson took a “leap of faith” and enrolled in the MAT program. “They helped me find the teacher in myself,” she said.
For Johnson, art presents us with an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Her work focuses on raising awareness for mental health issues, as well as Black history. “I believe my best works have come from expressing these topics,” she said. Projects may start with a single image inside her head, based on a past event, through her own self-care exercises, or learning about her own family history. But as Johnson sketches her ideas out, and works with her professors to choose the appropriate medium and style for a project, her single image flourishes into something meaningful, beautiful and rich in detail.
Johnson was nervous coming back to school at the age of 30, but praised Lander’s Department
of Art + Design for providing what she describes as “an overwhelming sense of togetherness.
That was comforting in my return to Lander and has been comforting since.” In fact, that sense of togetherness—the family-like bond she has with her peers and her professors—has been a source of motivation for her during the course of her studies. And, just as they were in her basketball career, Johnson’s mother and grandmother continue to be her biggest cheerleaders in the “arena of life.”
Because of that welcoming, familial atmosphere, Johnson happily recommends Lander University and the MAT program to anyone interested in a career as an art educator.
“The art family at Lander is truly here to help you grow as an artist, a professional and a human being,” she said. “You will have great leadership and great people in your corner.”
This story is featured in the Spring 2023 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.