The Art of Mr. John Beahm: Making Mitty’s Walls Brighter Everyday

A feature on Mr. Beahm’s paintings around the Mitty campus.

Emily Vu, Dhwani Kharidia, and Yixuan Qiao

If you’ve spent enough time within Mitty’s walls, chances are you’ve noticed a striking expressionist landscape here, or a vibrant still-life there, or Rosie the Riveter’s encouraging smile. You may not think too much about it at first glance, but these paintings are made by one of Mitty’s own.

Mr. John Beahm is a supporting graphic designer and digital layout production artist in the Creative Services Office—he works on everything from posters and promotional materials to the weekly newsletter in your inbox. Twenty years into his career, and experiencing an evolving technical transition in the graphic design and visual communications field, along with changing life forces, he sought a new creative release. Mr. Beahm enrolled in painting classes at San Jose City College in the evenings and on Saturdays, first for credit, then another year for the love of the craft. Several instructors provided opportunities to exhibit his art, and instilled a mindset of creating not only for himself, but for others. Mr. Beahm’s work has in turn reached an audience in homes and galleries for years.

Upon joining the Mitty community—and taking on an arduous commute—his associate Mr. Jaami Franklin offered a ride to the train station. Mr. Franklin lamented the blank walls in his office, and Mr. Beahm was more than willing to lend some of his available original works of art to Mr. Franklin for display. Mrs. Oakland, Ms. Williams, and subsequently, Mrs. Marcuson from the Athletic Offices among others on campus, soon noticed the artwork in the ARC Office, and as word spread, Mr. Beahm decorated the walls of those interested. Word-of-mouth left Mitty’s faculty wanting more. “It has afforded me an added interaction and connectivity with work associates, which has been greatly rewarding,” says Mr. Beahm.

Today, his paintings have found homes throughout campus, from the DEI Office to the Library to the Science Tutorial Center. He has even donated paintings for bidding to Mitty’s auctions. “I would hope that in some small way, my paintings have brought an added visual warmth and enjoyment to their office space decor, and a curiosity and inquisitiveness to those who’ve encountered the paintings in common areas,” he says.

Mr. Beahm had always drawn when he was younger. Coming across a retrospective of painter Earnest Ludwig Kirchner, Mr. Beahm discovered a world of raw energy, bold colors and emotion that was poignant and inspiring. His further exploration led to his exposure to various overlapping painters and intersecting genres in the realm of Post Impressionism, Expressionism, and Fauvism from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, the discovery of the “New York School” of Abstract Expressionism, and Northern California-Bay Area Figurative Art mid-century and beyond was highly influential, he recalls. He pursued painting with an effort to capture a subject’s spirit while leaving room for the viewer’s interpretation. “I enjoy the intriguing irregularities of line and form, and the subjectivity of interpretation that develops during the process of working from within, and seeing where the paint takes me.”

I would hope that in some small way, my paintings have brought an added visual warmth and enjoyment to their office space decor, and a curiosity and inquisitiveness to those who’ve encountered the paintings in common areas.

— Mr. John Beahm

To Mitty students with an interest in art, Mr. Beahm recommends studying historical artists (including the lesser-known) from a variety of genres, and finding a unique style based on what moves you. “Don’t be afraid to explore letting go of the tightness that accompanies a purely academic approach, and allow the soulful expression of a more ‘primitive’ and energetic application of the medium,” he suggests.

He advises that aspiring artists create an organized, documented body of work and work in progress, seek feedback via critique groups, gain confidence by actively seeking opportunities to display work, and develop an online presence to lead viewers to one’s samples.

Ms. Menor describes how when she first settled in her office, Mr. Beahm kindly offered to share his collection for Ms. Menor to choose from to make her office more feel personalized and comforting. An angel now decorates Ms. Menor’s office, uplifting to all who see it. Ms. Menor says that it “hits a chord with students, as many have looked up, smiled, and nodded in appreciation.”