Memphis College of Art’s influence? Look around – Commercial Appeal, September 8
Memphis College of Art’s influence? Look around
Since 1936, Memphis College of Art has been the heart and soul of the region’s visual arts community, anchored in iconic Rust Hall in Overton Park. Because creativity and innovation are the currencies of the 21st Century, the artists and alumni of MCA increase the richness of the communities where they live, and strengthen their economies, too.
The influence of MCA artists is everywhere you look in Memphis: the Edge Triangle, at Overton Square, along the Greenline, in the Memphis History mural on South Main, and in the newly opened Crosstown Concourse.
Currently, we are one of only three independent regionally and nationally accredited art colleges in the South. MCA’s Community Education program is as old as the school itself. Its origins trace back to the opening, during the Great Depression, of the Memphis Art Academy – a “community art school” – in the James Lee House in Victorian Village. Today, MCA’s Community Education program draws attendance from every segment of the greater Memphis, Shelby County and Mid-South region.
MCA builds partnerships that move Memphis forward in ways only artists can. In partnership with the Memphis Fashion Design Network, we have launched the first-ever Fashion Design Certificate Program in Memphis. This fall, participants will begin courses in everything from Draping Textiles to the Business of Fashion.
Our work with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital ranges from a reimagining of children’s drawings into the delightful Le Monster exhibition to an MCA class this fall that will create digital content for the Le Bonheur television channel.
Our students are creating a pedestrian safety campaign in partnership with Overton Park Conservancy and other park partners. In addition to designing signage for that campaign, an MCA animation student will create a safety video to be shown on the Levitt Shell screens and via other digital channels.
Our alumni contributions are broad ranging and meaningful as well:
Amanda Nalley (BFA ’13, Sculpture & Metals), as the Lead Fabricator at Youngblood Studio, helps develop large-scale public art works for communities and organizations. The Overton Bike arch and the Overton Park Forest Arch are just two examples of her work.
Ruby Zielinski (BFA ’16, Design Arts) is a graphic designer for Little Bird Innovation, where she focuses on the Made By project. Made By seeks to grow maker businesses in an effort to support creative entrepreneurs in Memphis.
Shof Coker (BFA ’09, Digital Arts) is the animation artist for the moving film “Liyana,” which won Best Documentary at the L.A. Film Festival, and the jury award for Artistic Bravery at the Durban International Film Festival.
There are many other examples of MCA artist contributions over the 81-year history of the institution. Esteemed artists like Fred Burton, Burton Callicott, Henry Easterwood, Ted Faiers, Richard Prillaman, Veda Reed, Bob Riseling, Murray Riss, William Roberson, Ted Rust, Dolph Smith and Peter Sohngen have enriched the visual arts landscape of our region for decades. And there are the countless artists who have endeared themselves to this community during the annual Horn Island exhibit, celebrating its 33rd year in 2017, and the Holiday Bazaar, celebrating its 67th year this November.
Artists are critical to a community passing the test of a “quality civilization.” At MCA, we believe the contributions of artists have never been more important to society than they are today.
Laura Hine is interim president of Memphis College of Art.