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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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A day in the life of a Pop Culture Professor


Most professors at the University have a creative outlet outside the classroom, whether it’s writing, music, working on art or being involved with the community but Matthew Donahue of the popular culture department has his hands in it all.

His daily routine consists of waking up, feeling tired and trying to revive himself with a cup of coffee. He then commutes from Toledo where he teaches ‘the youth of America,’ spending time in the classrooms and the University library.

‘My office is my home away from home,’ Donahue said, ‘BG is my home away from home.’

He then travels home in hope of working on his creative efforts where he uses popular culture as his inspiration.

Donahue had an interest in popular culture at a young age. He saw an article in Rolling Stone magazine about BG’s unique popular culture department. He became fascinated, wanting to pursue teaching about the subject at the University.

‘It’s a part of our daily lives ‘ and plays a huge part,’ Donahue said. ‘Pop culture is the basis for inspiration.’

Donahue, a northwest Ohio native, always uses this area for his ‘basis of operation’ towards his creativity. ‘I just feel pretty connected with the area,’ Donahue said. ‘Also, it’s an affordable area to live in.’

As a child, his creativeness was an outlet. When he was 14 years old, he made his debut as a musician. In high school, Donahue would often show up tired from playing a punk rock show the night before when he said the punk scene was a ‘big deal.’

He said that was an experience most people can’t say they had growing up.

He remained active in the music scene since, deejaying and playing with bands such as the punk-funk group, The Great Bar -B-Que Gods and, more recently, a trip-hop group called The Universe Crew.

The Universe Crew’s first album was released by an independent record label in London where they released ‘What’s Inside Your Afro?’ and ‘Turn of the Century EP.’

Donahue ventured into the music scene in a literary sense, authoring the book, ‘I’ll Take You There: An Oral and Photographic History of the Hines Farm Blues Club.’ PBS received a copy of Donahue’s book and asked him to turn it into a documentary.

‘It’s an experience when you never know what will happen [in the research process,]’ Donahue said.

The book received national acclaim and the documentary was nominated for an Emmy in the documentary category.

Along with the involvement with music and writing, Donahue is also an artist, specializing in visual art including outsider art, art cars, collague art and something he terms, ‘ghetto-ography,’ his own type of street photography. His art work has been shown throughout the country and has brought him opportunities to travel. His artistic vision, he says, is always inspired by popular culture.

Art cars have been a more recent interest to Donahue, who frequently travels to Houston for the largest art car exhibit in the country two years ago, he walked away with first place. To Donahue, it combines his love of art to his love of automobiles.

‘Art cars are part of the outsider art movement. An art car is when artwork is created on an automobile through the use of collage, paint or any other means,’ Donahue said. ‘What you do on a canvas, you do to an automobile.’

Donahue, who teaches popular culture along with working in the libraries of the University and Toledo, said it’s difficult to be motivated for his creative pursuits.

‘It’s a lack of a social life,’ Donahue said with a chuckle. ‘It’s true.’

With all these accomplishments, he said his greatest achievement is being a part of the community here.

‘Being able to teach here, the Hines Farm project, doing artwork and having that shown along traveling all over, has all been amazing,’ Donahue said.

In the future, Donahue hopes to keep doing what he’s doing.

‘I’d like to make more music, more films, more teaching and more traveling,’ Donahue said.

Musically, his next mission is to develop a set of deejaying, playing folk and rock with the same song at live performances.

Donahue hopes his life lessons and sharing them with students will engage the ‘youth of America’ to follow their dreams even though it may be risky.

‘Pursue your interests and your dreams, and in the time of conflict, don’t try to worry about what others think. Don’t take the conservative route,’ Donahue said, proving he still has that punk attitude.

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