News Column

Set designer's palette spans film, stage, music

August 4, 2014

By Pamela Pritt, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

Aug. 04--Seay Earehart is passionate about the arts, but perhaps that's by design.

The set designer who got his start in art class at Woodrow Wilson High School, where he said he had a great teacher, is staying busy as more and more projects come his way.

A Beckley native, Eareheart was home last week, and in the midst of helping his mom, he's choosing between two new projects, "The Red Road" on Sundance Channel and a CBS Television pilot, "Surgeon General." He's also looking at designing the set for a remake of the 1983 "National Lampoon's Vacation."

But he looks back fondly on his Beckley days.

"Art was my full-time thing," he said.

It's been more of a full-time thing than ever as his resume grows with paying gigs, and his volunteer efforts to help save arts programs are also mushrooming.

If movie and television viewers don't stick around long enough to read all the credits, they might miss the fact that Earehart has worked on such hits as "Ernest Goes to Jail," "Lawless," "Flight," Tyler Perry's "The Single Mom's Club," "Mockingjay" and "The Walking Dead," just a few of the titles where his talented hand has brought to life the backgrounds and scenes that screenwriters have envisioned.

His "arts" career actually began at The Register-Herald in graphic design in the early 1980s, but he left the newspaper page to join Theatre West Virginia as an actor. He soon began to wield a brush behind the scenes and help paint the sets for the plays "Hatfields and McCoys" and "Honey in the Rock."

And there, behind the scenes at Grandview, Earehart was able to find the inspiration for the rest of his career.

He's worked in Nashville on videos, winning a Country Music Award for the Eddie Rabbit video "Can I Have This Dance?" He's worked at the Michael Jackson Foundation, at Opryland and for all three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.

But it was Rabbit's video that propelled Earehart's career. After that, he was in demand. He did more music videos for Reba McEntire and The Judds Final Tour.

He came back to Beckley briefly, and then was off to Alabama to design sets for 13 productions of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Earehart worked in other regional and state theater productions until the lagging national economy began to have an effect on the theaters' ability to stay in business.

"Honeydripper" was being filmed in nearby Greenville, Ala., so Earehart took his design skills to the movies once again.

Through the years of searching for work, and now work searching for him, Earehart has devoted some of his time and passion to other projects. He has had his own art exhibits, he's on the board of arts foundations and he works to save theaters and dance companies in the region.

Earehart's current project allows dance companies to sell limited edition prints from one of his paintings. Fifty percent of the proceeds of the sales will go to the dance companies in Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas and Fort Worth that sell them.

Although Earehart's career has been all art all the time, he said he didn't realize when he sat in his first Woodrow Wilson High School art class that he'd have opportunities in fine arts, film arts, theater arts, dance and music.

"I never thought I'd be so involved in all the arts and bringing others into loving the arts," Earehart said. He also helps friends trying to get jobs in the arts find opportunities.

And there's still a special place in his heart for Beckley, his hometown, where he comes every chance he gets, and for Theatre West Virginia, where he worked on some sets for this year's production of "Hatfields and McCoys."

"Anything for my old friends at Theatre West Virginia; that's where I got my start," he said.

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Source: Register-Herald (Beckley, WV)

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