For art’s sake

Posted by
On January 31, 2007

In an ocean of engineers and technological minds, Southwinds, UMR’s literary magazine, is a ship of artistic endeavors, containing stories, poetry, photography and artwork. At the helm is Max Tohline. As editor-in-chief of Southwinds, Tohline is not only passionate about art, creating, and writing; he is passionate about the process, and about encouraging others to be creative. Tohline has been involved in production of the magazine for the past two years, and no one is more surprised by his enthusiasm for leadership than Tohline himself.

“I never thought I would be in a position to take the lead in an organization,” says Tohline, who will graduate with an English degree this May. “But now that I’ve tried it, I love it.” Tohline says the magazine underwent a period of dormancy during the dawn of the new millennium, but a small cadre of students decided two years ago that they still had literary things to say. “We just needed a literary venue to express ourselves. I jumped at the chance to get involved. As it turns out, I kept getting more and more responsibilities.”

A graduate of Madeira High School in Cinncinati, Ohio, Tohline often finds himself torn between creating art and completing class assignments. “My assignments as a student usually take a backseat to my ever-changing compulsions as a person,” he explains. “Homework is delayed until the last minute, poems and films get made now. After all, creativity is volatile and tends to evaporate if left sitting out.”

Early on, Tohline’s life took interesting twists and turns he didn’t expect.

“In kindergarten, I wanted to be a firefighter,” he remembers. “Then I wanted to be a writer. In third grade, I wanted to be a teacher.” Tohline then embraced the field of aerospace engineering, but his focus changed when other interests intervened. “As it turns out, I was right in the third grade,” he admits. “You might say I gave up high-flying rockets for high-flung metaphors.”

At UMR, Tohline’s favorite class has been Physics 23 with Dr. Ronald J. Bieniek, associate professor of physics. “I realized that if you’re going to learn at a college level, you need to learn in a different way,” he shares. “Because I study English, I’m given to thinking a lot of answers are the right answers, and it just depends on how you explain yourself. Bieniek came from the opposite direction, which was exciting and refreshing. If you complete [the problem] the wrong way, you get it wrong.”

Tohline understands that art is a creative process, where artists try to take something in shambles and make order, or create something out of nothing. “This is something UMR students do all the time. Engineering is not destructive — it’s creative; it’s an art. I would like to see more die-hard engineers, physicists, chemists, and biologists realize their creative impulses. Maybe you won’t write Wordsworth, but you can still come up with something.”

Without a wannabe Wordsworth on every corner, just how does a literary magazine attract contributors at a university crawling with engineers?

“I know a literary magazine on a UMR campus is something of a chimera,” Tohline says, “but I don’t think it’s an oxymoron. UMR students are often more creative than students at schools just devoted to the liberal arts. Without creativity, nobody could finish their senior design projects! Engineers understand the value of craftsmanship, design, and form. All artistic expression begins with that understanding.”

 Tohline believes more students need to step out on a limb, creating their own art and literature and submitting it to Southwinds for publication.

 “We want and need more submissions,” Tohline says. “I know students at UMR are constantly taking photographs; I’m always seeing their photography on [student internet site] Facebook. And I know people draw. To a lesser extent, there are even UMR students writing poetry and stories. They’re just reticent to submit their work. No matter how quirky your work is, it is good enough. It’s worth being seen by people other than you and your cats.”

When he’s not studying or heading Southwinds, Tohline’s career at UMR includes playing trombone in the university band, hosting a show on student radio station KMNR on Sundays from 3-6 p.m., and serving as research assistant for Dr. James Bogan, Curator’s Teaching Professor of art history and film at UMR. After graduation, Tohline plans to attend graduate school for film studies, continuing his admiration for art. Meanwhile, he is sending out a call for UMR students in all disciplines to share their creativity with Southwinds.

“I want this year’s edition of the magazine to show the diversity of our campus,” Tohline says about the 2007 literary voyage. “The humanities at UMR serve as a life raft to people who would otherwise be drowning in a sea of equations and uncompilable code.” 

Submissions should be mailed to by Friday, Feb. 2, although late submissions will be considered if time permits. For more information about Southwinds, visit or email

Share this page

Posted by

On January 31, 2007. Posted in People