Born in Pennsylvania, Emery Bopp grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and came to South Carolina in 1951, becoming a significant force for art in his adopted state. Starting in the fall of that same year, Bopp served as chair of the Division of Art for thirty-nine years, and as a member of the art faculty for over forty years at Bob Jones University, a private evangelical college. He also participated in theatrical productions, earning the respect of his students. One of them commented: “the first man I met who didn’t use his intelligence to transform theology into a weapon. He employed his formidable intelligence to make us into artists and to feed our souls. . . The best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Life in a small town was formative in his upbringing, and he exhibited a great interest in visual art throughout his young life. After graduating from high school, in 1942 he enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a corpsman at a naval convalescent hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. There he used his artistic talents designing invitations and decorations and overseeing craft projects for the patients. With funds supplied by the GI Bill, he enrolled in classes at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, thinking he might do illustration work. Continuing his studies at Yale University under Josef Albers and others, in 1951 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During his tenure at Bob Jones University, he returned to school, studying art history at New York University, and earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1961.

One of his most lasting contributions was as a founder in 1970 of Hampton III Gallery, along with his colleagues from the university, Darrell Koons and Carl Blair. Its mission has been, and continues to be, “supporting professional living artists… in or from South Carolina ranging from post-World War II to the present.” The oldest art gallery in the state, it has helped to shape collections both public and private throughout the South.

 A heavy teaching schedule, administrative duties as department chair, and commitments to Hampton III Gallery prevented Bopp from creating a large body of his own work. Nevertheless, he was a regular exhibitor and frequent juror with the South Carolina Guild of Artists, a membership organization founded in 1952. It hosted annual exhibitions at the major museums in the state: Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. Each venue extended a purchase prize, and the winning artwork entered the museum’s collection. Statewide recognition came to Bopp when his White Menorah, an acrylic painting from 1968, entered the South Carolina Arts Commission State Art Collection.

Bopp’s art tends to be simple and fresh, exemplified by still life acrylic paintings or flat constructions composed of shaped wood that he painted in soft colors. In 2006, Jeanet Dreskin said of her colleague, “Many of Emery Bopp’s paintings are unique with their subtle interaction of color and the geometric construction of shape and space. These elements are frequently combined with a deep spiritual sense that permeates the work.”