Artist and Teacher Tyler Jacobsen Passes Away

His family launches a generous scholarship fund to support emerging artists.

Tyler Jacobsen

The college regrets to report that Tyler Jacobsen, 41, passed away on June 10, 2019 in Nashville.

Jacobsen, who was serving as an adjunct faculty member at Watkins, had an illustrious career in the arts and higher education, having served as the art director and publicist for Seattle-based Medical Records; a producer, musician, and singer with the group Roladex; and a teacher at Marist College, Parsons School of Art and Design, and Cornish College of Art. He himself earned a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

The outpouring regarding Jacobsen’s life has been immediate and moving.

Elyssa Diane, Jacobsen’s partner in Roladex, said, “The only thing that can even begin to abate the sting of this colossal loss is gratitude for the enormous part Tyler played in my life. He broke my world wide open and filled it with an abundance of light, color, sound, and love. He was wildly passionate, earnestly compassionate, and unafraid to show it. He encouraged others unfailingly. He believed in people and believed that nothing is impossible or out of reach. He was the most imaginative, perceptive person I’ve ever known.”

"Tyler didn't just go the extra mile for Watkins—he ran toward a limitless horizon," says President J. Kline

Diane is one of many individuals who have paid tribute to Jacobsen. Medical Records owner Troy Wadsworth said, “The world will never fully comprehend the glowing star that [has been] tragically extinguished: his little-documented, intimate involvement with subversive culture jammers such as the Yes Men, as well as his own quirky projects such as Re-Tag and Rolls of Information; his art career in the early 2000s in New York; his skills [passed on] as a professor at multiple colleges and art schools. His cover designs graced many of the classic Medical releases and have made it into the homes of music lovers all over the world.”

Jacobsen’s students also shared their thoughts on this artist’s singular impact. Amy Kinssies, who was a student in Jacobsen’s Digital Literacy course in 2018, said, “Tyler always saw the light and intention in everyone’s work and in all of us as artists. He got us excited about what we were doing and the future of our work; he taught us to push harder into untapped technique. He was a dreamer and made us better that way.”

“I’ve never met someone with a seemingly more innate understanding of, well, everything,” said Sean O’Neal, “music, films, art, technology, semiotics, and the various intersections of which I never even considered until we met.”

Another spoke of the “limitless beauty of his mind,” which was “surpassed only by the uninhibited generosity of his spirit.”

Watkins President J. Kline added his thoughts:

“From his first day at Watkins, Tyler’s impact upon his students was immeasurable. His vast skill set, his enormous range of interests and expertise, and his peerless critical facilities paled in comparison to his engagement, empathy, and mentorship of all his students. Tyler didn’t just go the extra mile for Watkins—he ran toward a limitless horizon. His loss is devastating to all in the college community.”

To honor Jacobsen’s abiding legacy and his dedication to the artistic search which generates society’s most profound answers, his family and friends have established a generous memorial scholarship at Watkins. That legacy will be further increased annually by State Farm Insurance, the company of Jacobsen’s father, Doug. For those wishing to add to the Tyler Jacobsen Memorial Scholarship in Digital Media fund, which will support emerging artists, visit Watkins’s online portal and designate the fund by typing it in the boxes provided.

Jacobsen is survived by his parents, Karen and Doug; his brother Tanner; all those in Nashville who knew and admired him; and his extended family; as well as a large and diverse group of friends, students, and confidants scattered across the globe.  To leave a note or share a memory with Jacobsen’s family, please visit this site.