For nearly 30 years, Eric Pervukhin has been an integral part of the Art + Department—not only because of his exceptional teaching skills, but also his charismatic personality and continuous desire to encourage students. Those who had the privilege of knowing Eric Pervukhin as a professor, coworker, or even just in passing are no strangers to his contagious curiosity and unabashed dedication to fostering relationships through creativity. He has announced his retirement at the end of this semester.
Eric first began teaching at Missouri State in the year 1992. He recalls being “hired during some kind of educational conference in Chicago, […] in early spring.” During Eric’s time at MSU, he has taught many different classes —computer image manipulation, art history, book design, sequential art, graphic design… the list goes on and on. Prior to his role as professor, Eric also served as a lecturer, freelance artist and photographer, curriculum consultant, printmaking instructor, high school instructor, art director, and scenographer. Eric also owned his own design studio. From Russia, to Vermont, and numerous places in between, he has excelled in many areas and lived many lives—and has the stories to prove it. “He has lived a remarkable life and has so many experiences to share, from a different era and different culture,” shares Vonda Yarberry, Department Head of the Art + Design Department. “And he has never slowed down.”
When asked about his accomplishments, Eric replied, “to me, [that] sounds like boasting. Maybe, instead, tell a couple of stories; […] my students love these.” Not only do his students adore his stories, they also adore his presence in the classroom. “Eric is one of the most generous, free spirited, and thoughtful teachers I’ve ever had,” shares Midori Saito, former graphic design student who graduated in 2018.
As for these legendary stories, Eric has been known to tell students about his career as a puppet artist. The puppet master he worked under ended up murdering his former girlfriend, her new boyfriend, and himself, all with puppet-making tools. He sums this experience up as, “A very captivating story.” Eric even worked as a medical illustrator at one point, with the unsettling task of drawing the inner workings of the human body. One time at a Philadelphia hospital, the doctor “gave me a pretty long scope to hold, which he inserted into the patient […] and started telling me, ‘Look here, you can see the stomach,’” Eric remembers. “I was thinking only about how not to lose consciousness and not to impale the patient [under] the scope.” He’s been spotted riding a student’s unicycle and scanning a cat’s paws for a design project—not at the same time, of course. Eric’s outlook and humor toward life is something to be admired, as is his enthusiasm for teaching. Jeremy Kistler, former Art + Design student who graduated in 2015, remembered a time when Eric jokingly asked his class to gift him a luxury car. “I still hope we can get him his Lamborghini station wagon that he requested when we all got rich and famous for what he taught us,” Jeremy says.
Eric saw each student as their own individual with equal value and catered his insight to them as such. “Eric was an amazing mentor,” shares former Art + Design student, Charlie Denison, “He believed in me and helped give my work, and my life, for that matter, focus. Without him, I would have never gone down the amazing path I’ve been so lucky to have experienced.” Eric also frequently attended students’ exhibits. “Eric taught that if you were in the art program, you were an artist, case closed,” shares former BFA Design student, Jeremy Kistler. Eric’s guidance continually gave students the push they needed to create beyond inward limitations. “I think that Eric realized that [some of] his students lacked the confidence to engage vigorously with their own art processes, as if they were waiting for permission from ‘the powers that be’ to make their work,” shares Jeremy, “Eric seemed to say, ‘You need permission? You have it. Now go to work.’” Eric went out of his way to aid students in pursuing their goals. “He has offered so many single-focused, special classes for students, whether [helping] transfer students boost their skill levels or [helping] students graduate,” reflects Vonda. “His dedication to his students is so strong.”
The energy Eric exudes has to come from somewhere, and he chalks it up to the inspiration he receives from his students and other members of his artistic community, as well as the insight and advice he received from former instructors. “Some of my instructors could trace their professional secrets to the eighteenth-century art academies,” Eric says, “I know how much my instructors gave me, and I believe in keeping the same tradition of sharing knowledge.” Mutual understanding is what Eric enjoyed the most about teaching. “It is not an easy thing to achieve, but when you realize that you are on the same page with you student, when you start to speak the same language—it’s the best reward,” he shares. Eric uses the term “spiritual vampirism” to describe his continuous drive. “I like to be around creative people, students, instructors,” Eric shares. “To suck in [the] artistic vibe, artistic ambiance—I need it as an artist, the feel, the taste of the bolt of talent, creative spark.”
Students especially, learned from Eric’s own talent and creative spark. “From [Eric], I learned how to push ideas. How to flip them, twist them, venture with them to the absurd and then refine them to an effective and original solution,” reflects Matt Rose, BFA Design student who graduated in 1997. He made an effort to ensure that students knew the value of questioning their work and took full advantage of their artistic skills. “He truly believed that every student was more than capable of going way beyond their potential and helped show everyone their inner creative strength,” shares Midori. As for what Eric hopes students gained most from his classes, he replied “Intellectual curiosity. Everything else is just helpful stuff you can pick up from books and videos.”
Eric showed those around him that it was okay to have fun with art and be courageous, both within and beyond the classroom. “He suggested art should not be a burdensome, difficult process, but that because of […] inherent creativity, making art should be as natural as breathing,” shares Jeremy, “I think there’s a thematic element to what I learned from Eric; it was boldness to create.” Midori remembers a time when a visiting lecturer came to talk to their class about VR (virtual reality), and when it was time to try out the VR headset, “Eric was the first one to volunteer to try it out. He put on the headset and started playing a scary game, [ended up] drawing a bunny rabbit, and just [had] fun with it. Once people saw how much fun he was having, other people got in line to try it out.” By not taking life too seriously, Eric unknowingly inspired for others to do the same. “He’s the one who said that sometimes, you don’t always need a reason to create—just create for fun,” says Midori, “It doesn’t always have to make sense or have a concrete reason, that sometimes the best pieces we create are the ones we’re not thinking too hard about.”
With much more time for fun, Eric plans on spending time with his four grandkids. “Can I make them all artists?” he jokes. That, and also finishing the three books he has to illustrate—with “deadlines […] way before retirement.”
“He has broadened all of our sensibilities and will be greatly missed,” shares Vonda. Although his much-loved question—a favorite among polled students—” Schhhhtudents…how does it work?” won’t be heard in the halls of Brick City any longer, Eric’s legacy lives on in those who learned so much from him.