David Cunningham, M.F.A.

“Personal transformation begins with passion. Passion is the engine that drives everything else. My hope is to awaken this passion within each of my students regardless of their major or interests.”


Artist in Residence

Educational Background

  • M.F.A., Indiana University – Bloomington, IN
  • B.F.A., University of Evansville – Evansville, IN

Year Joined Franklin



Representational oil painting, figure drawing, and wheel thrown ceramics
Even though I am teaching full time, I continue to work as an artist. I employ traditional oil painting techniques to create highly realistic paintings that have been exhibited in galleries across the U.S. My work is so highly illusionistic it is often mistaken for photography at first glance.
Even though the primary focus of my work is 2-dimensional, I continue to make, exhibit and sell low fired, carved wheel thrown ceramics as well.

What advice do you have for students interested in Franklin College’s art program?

I tell freshmen interested in studying art to make sure that they get everything they can out of their 4 years…that the choices they make in those 4 years can change the trajectory of the rest of their life. Art is a tremendously challenging major. Success in the marketplace will require intelligence, hard work and skill. My promise is that we will encourage, educate and push them up to (and beyond) their comfort zone. It is up to them to seize the opportunity!

How do you help students who are on their way to graduate programs?

So far we have a 100% acceptance rate for art students wanting to pursue graduate study. This is a coordinated effort between the entire art faculty. All art students take Business Practices in Art which helps students prepare their portfolios and be ready for life after school. Professor Rakic works tirelessly to make sure that our students are well schooled in art history and write clearly and effectively. Finally, our studio courses give students a strong visual foundation in a broad variety of areas.

Selected Professional Accomplishments

Grants and Awards


Outstanding Still-Life, 90th Annual Hoosier Salon Juried Exhibition, Indiana History Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Faculty Award of Excellence in Scholarship, Franklin College
12 Day Residency Award, Pliva International Artist Colony, Pliva, Bosnia


Best in Show, Annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition, Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, Indiana
Rinker Endowment Grant, Faculty travel, Franklin College


Award of Excellence, Annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition, Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, Indiana
Viewer’s Choice Award, Annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition, Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, Indiana
Award of Excellence in Painting, Whitewater Valley Annual Art Exhibit, Richmond, Indiana
Best in Show, Arts Commission 2011, Jasper Community Arts Commission, Jasper, Indiana


Best in Show, Contemporary Realism Biennial, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana


Award of Excellence in Painting, Whitewater Valley Annual Art Exhibit, Richmond, Indiana
Rinker Endowment Grant for Faculty Excellence, Franklin College


Award of Excellence in Painting, Sali National Fine Art Exhibit, Indianapolis, Indiana


Award of Excellence in Still Life, Irvington Presents, Indianapolis, Indiana
Mary Louise Schroat Award for Realism, 94th Water Tower Exhibit, Louisville Visual Art Association, Louisville, Kentucky
Best Still Life, Best of America 2004, National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, Lake Ozark, Missouri

Conference Presentations


Allegorical Still Life Painting: More than just objects, Paper presentation at The Representational Art Conference, Ventura, California


Artist as Prophet: Confronting a Youth Obsessed Culture with Its Own Mortality – Paper presentation at the Southeastern College Art Conference, Savannah, Georgia

What Students Say

“He believed in my work and pushed me to work harder and to think grander. He fostered a learning environment that challenged me as an artist and as a thinker. He truly taught me more than how to paint and draw; he instilled a sense of pride and work ethic in me that I didn’t know I possessed.” – Bart Leonard ’12

In My Spare Time…

I have been practicing martial arts for over 20 years, including Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai. I have trained with masters from around the world including at the Gracie Academy in Brazil.