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Student Sean Worth helps bring Dolly Parton’s 'Behind the Seams' to center stage

As art director for one-of-a-kind fashion exhibit, junior graphic design major learned real-world skills fueled by star power.

Janel Shoun-Smith/Photos by Kristi Jones | 

Lipscomb student taking a photo with President McQueen

“Find out who you are. And do it on purpose.” So says Dolly Parton.

Lipscomb graphic design junior Sean Worth must have been listening to the Smoky Mountains’ favorite daughter, because he spent this past fall semester doing a lot. For Dolly Parton, as it happens.

Worth, from Pennsylvania, was appointed the student leader of the art direction team within the Lipscomb student practicum formed to coordinate the “Dolly Parton & the Makers: My Life in Rhinestones” exhibit held on the Lipscomb campus this fall.

From October to December, thousands of people are visiting the Lipscomb campus to see the one-of-a-kind exhibit featuring 25 of Parton’s outfits featured in the new book Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones.

Sean Worth and other Lipscomb people applauding

Throughout their experience—from seeing an ad to finding the exit sign—those people are seeing graphic designs originally created or overseen by Worth, who led a five-person student team to work with Lipscomb University Marketing and the Parton organization to create advertisements, a logo, exhibit signage, merchandise for the gift shop, posters and a billboard, among other items.

Worth chose Lipscomb, in part, because it was a smaller college where he felt his talents could really shine, especially as he is the type of person “who says yes to everything,” he said. Lipscomb’s location in Nashville, an entertainment hub, was also an alluring factor. 


He came to Lipscomb already having worked with photography and design since seventh-grade and focused on becoming a creative director in the music industry. He has previously interned with the School of Art & Design to create posters for on-campus events and with the Office of Public Relations and Communication to take on-campus photos. 

During October an exhibit of his portrait photography showed at Lipscomb’s student-run Open Gallery, located in the Wedgewood-Houston area of Nashville.

He appreciates his Lipscomb experience as he sees “people who want students to succeed and will give students opportunities,” he said. “I still can’t believe they let a student do all this!” 

Dolly Parton mugs

“All this,” turned out to be quite a bit. Students began brainstorming back in June. Worth made several presentations of his work to Lipscomb President Candice McQueen as well as the officials of the Parton organization for approvals.

The real-world project showed Worth all the many factors that must be taken into account when working on an industry project from start to finish, such as what approvals are needed and when, getting price quotes, setting deadlines, determining quantities and working within budget constraints. 

Worth created the coral pink ad design with flowers and butterflies as well as corresponding digital artwork seen throughout the promotion efforts, including wraps to decorate the columns of the Beaman Library where the exhibit is being held and a billboard on Nashville’s Interstate 65.

Sean Worth standing in front of the billboard he created

Worth posing in front of his billboard ad. (Submitted)

Charlotte Poling, chair of the fashion and design department, packed a few students, including Worth, into her car and drove out to an industrial plant just off the interstate so they could watch the billboard being put up and get photos standing below the creation. “It was fun to have that experience with them,” said Poling, “for them to understand what an incredible opportunity this is.”

Worth was also thrilled to see his poster in the background of a pre-event interview with Parton filmed on campus and aired nationally on CBS Mornings in October. “How does this happen,” he gushed in excitement.

Worth said that it was interesting to see firsthand the huge number of items needed for the exhibit. In the lead-up to the October opening he was working on lanyards, name tags, yard signs and the display panels presenting the information on each dress and designer.

Visitors waiting in line to enter the main exhibit hall are able to read a timeline of the included outfits and information on Parton’s philanthropic and artistic ventures, all created and designed by Worth and other students. He also designed a few pieces to sell in the gift shop, including a mug, keychain, tote bag and T-shirt co-branded with Parton’s and Lipscomb’s logos.

Dolly Parton Tshirt

Then Parton’s creative team asked Worth to design a T-shirt without the Lipscomb logo and sent him the photo from the Behind the Seams back cover, with Parton wearing a multi-colored butterfly dress designed specifically for the book and making its public premiere as an item in the exhibit. Worth colored the photo in shades of pink beneath Parton’s hand-written signature logo, all on a black T-shirt.

For his part, his whirlwind fall semester as lead designer for the exhibit has opened his eyes to just how many people are involved in the creative process of artistic projects and to other creative tracks he could take someday, such as becoming an art director.

Lipscomb students taking a picture at the Dolly Parton Event
“The student involvement is such a testament to what Lipscomb is all about and how they set you up for the future.”
— Sean Worth