Paul Olsen - Coastal Carolina University
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Paul Olsen

Distinguished Professor, Visual Arts

Jonathan Doe
Contact Paul Olsen

EHFA 285

Hours: Monday and Wednesday: 11:00AM - 12:00PM, Tuesday and Thursday: 1:45PM - 3:00PM

Everything is Black and White till you turn Gray. Paul Olsen


Paul Olsen was hired by then Coastal Carolina College in 1989. He was hired to establish the graphic design and photography programs for a growing art department. Prior to coming to Coastal he had worked in Connecticut, New York and Miami as an art director, creative director and finally owning a freelance business. His first teaching job was at Mississippi University for Women where he established the photography program, became director of marketing and was one of the founders and co-director of the Mississippi Governor’s School. From there he went to Columbia College in Missouri where he expanded the graphic design program and served as department chair for three years before coming to Coastal. Shortly after arriving at Coastal he was approached by a student English major to become advisor for Archarios, an out of print literary/art magazine once produced by the English Department. Twenty-five years later and over 80 national and regional awards he is stepping down as advisor. The first issue produced won the national Pacemaker Award. Olsen has been recognized by Coastal for his involvement with Archarios and student media receiving the Student Affairs Division Award for significant contributions to the quality of student life in 1992 and 2010. He was named Distinguished Four Year Magazine Advisor in 1995 by the CMA/ACP (College Media Advisors and Associated Collegiate Press) at their annual national convention.

In 2005 Olsen and professor Arne Flaten established the Ashes2Art Program. Its purpose was to introduce undergraduate students to the digital reconstruction of ancient monuments and in so doing the study of ancient art history. The program started in Florence, Italy, migrated to Greece and was scheduled to go to Egypt but that had to be canceled due to the political unrest that erupted. The program has garnered many awards and is nationally recognized as a superb undergraduate research program using the latest technology for exploration and reconstruction. Olsen and Flaten received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that allowed them to take students, all expenses paid, to Greece to do research each summer for two weeks for two years. They also received several Faculty Enhancement Grants.

In 2007 Olsen became chair of the Department of Visual Arts. During his four year tenure, Graphic Design was made its own major, two full time photography instructors were hired to expand the now established program and the department received accreditation from NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) a very prestigious art accrediting body. Enrollment in the new Graphic Design major grew from 75 to over 150 students the first year it was offered. Olsen established the 2+2 Program with Horry Georgetown Technical College. This program allows students with an Associate of Arts in digital arts degree from HGTC to enroll at Coastal and complete their bachelor's degree in graphic design in just two more years at Coastal. Also during this time Olsen, along with history professor Kenneth Townsend, embedded for two weeks in Afghanistan with professor Alan Case who was there with the South Carolina National Guard. They went out on missions, interviewed members of the 10th Mountain Division and traveled to Kabul, Bagram Air Base and Kandahar. Upon their return they lectured for several years about their experiences and did follow-up interviews with those that they met while there.

Olsen was one of the original members of the Myrtle Beach Marathon Steering Committee. Besides running in the marathon’s inaugural race, he was involved in creating their national advertising campaign, brochures and tee shirts for the last 18 years.

He served three years active duty in the Army with one year in Vietnam. He retired in 2007 as a Major. Among his awards are the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Parachutist Wings, Vietnamese Honor Medal and two Army Commendation Medals. Olsen also has two of his photographs in the National Veterans Museum in Chicago, Ill.

Olsen is also a nationally recognized photographer whose work has been exhibited internationally, nationally, regionally and locally. His photography has won numerous awards.


M.F.A., University of Miami, Florida 1975
B.F.A., University of Miami, Florida 1973

Interesting Facts

Olsen has run the Cooper River Bridge run for 25 years in a row. He is a PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) SCUBA instructor.

Teaching Areas

Graphic Design and Photography

Research Areas

Graphic Design and Photography