MCA News

(Dis)placed Bodies Exhibition on view in January

“We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In partnership with the City of Memphis and the National Civil Rights Museum’s MLK50 program honoring the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, students and faculty from Memphis College of Art and the University of Memphis join together to present a thoughtful and contemporary look at inequalities and social justice in Memphis.

The exhibit will be on view in the Main Gallery of Rust Hall in Overton Park from January 4 to January 30, with a reception on Friday, January 26 from 6-8pm.

In this cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration, Dr. Susan Nordstrom, Assistant Professor of Educational Research at University of Memphis, O. Gustavo Plascencia, Associate Professor and Director of the MFA Programs at Memphis College of Art, and graduate students from both institutions explore how bodies are (dis)placed by intersections between poverty, available jobs with living wages, decent housing, quality education, and justice in Memphis.

In this project, (dis)placed bodies are defined as people who have been shifted by structural economic, racial, sexual, gender inequalities against their will, and the term (dis)placed bodies is used to situate how structural inequalities are both embodied and real.

This work aims to open up ways to think about, and do the justice to come that has arrived too late for, (dis)placed bodies. The exhibit invites conversations and connections with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s social justice philosophy and work, and powerfully encourages its audience to face cultural and economic disparities in our community.

During the Fall 2017 semester, UofM and MCA students worked together to study (dis)placements through art, philosophy, and research. During this project, they saw no division between art, philosophy, and research. Rather, they viewed themselves as makers, philosophers, and researchers as they read about social art, philosophy, and arts-based research practices. They walked with these readings in selected Memphis neighborhoods in order to study (dis)placements of ourselves, the people living in those neighborhoods, the history of the neighborhoods, and the neighborhoods themselves. This exhibit and catalog share projects created from the course and walks.

The projects range from assemblage pieces, sculpture, photography, poetry, and traditional academic papers and represent the collective work surrounding (dis)placements in Memphis.

Exhibition participants: Darcie Beeman-Black, Sara L. Benson, Hannah Clevenger, Aaron Matthew Dechant, Sebastian Garcia, Gregory C. Hairston, Nadine R. McLean, Susan Naomi Nordstrom, Alyssa Nucaro, O. Gustavo Plascencia, Mark Rowell, Derwin Sisnett, Leslee, Bailey-Tarbett, Charles Taylor, Cat Williams, and Lauren Woods. Other catalog participants include: Tracy Hernandez, LaRuth K. Lofties, Taylor Palas, Keven Rudrow, Wesam Salem, Laura Sullivan, Stephen Paff, and Holly Staggs.


Details of “City of Islands,” O. Gustavo Plascencia

The exhibition was made possible in part by an MLK50 grant from the City of Memphis and sponsorship from the National Civil Rights Museum.



Don’t miss the MCA Senior Showcase on February 13

Memphis College of Art has redesigned its spring showcase!

Stop by and experience the wide-range of Senior creative talent and work on view. Attendees will have the opportunity to see artwork, talk to students, and discuss opportunities. The Showcase is open to any individual or business interested in meeting our talented creatives of the future. See how these graduating students can positively impact your organization, business, or community.

Mark your calendar to be at Rust Hall February 13th between 4:30 and 6:00 PM for this event. We will have refreshments to enjoy as you mix and mingle with this latest group of MCA talent.

Registration is required, and can be completed at this link:

MCA 2018 Senior Showcase

Community Education Spring Catalog Online Now!

Click here to see all of the wonderful offerings through MCA Community Education this spring.

MCA Community Education has something for everyone. We offer 30+ courses for Spring 2018, and don’t forget Summer Art Camp! Saturday School classes and After School Art Studio are available for youth. Adult classes include courses in Photography, Painting, Metals, and more. Private lessons available.

Did you know that MCA Community Education gift certificates are available for purchase online? Visit our store to give the gift of art education.

Community Letters: Happy Thoughts for MCA

Memphis College of Art received a thoughtful letter from a community member this week. M. Cobb writes, “Your painted mural outside Iskiwitz Metals on 604 Marble Avenue encourages those who pass by daily. The creativity of your artists showcases their many talents.”

The letter continues to thank the college for its artistic improvement throughout the city. Letters like these remind us that MCA students continue to impact our community in important ways. Thank you, M. Cobb, for writing to us.

The mural outside of Iskiwitz Metals was created by MCA students in 2016 through a grant given by AutoZone.


CTNX Bound: Animation Students Hit the Road

Image by Emily Martinez

Four MCA animation students – Sahina Irwin, Kristen Kaluba, Troy Koler, and Emily Martinez – hit the road to attend the CTN animation eXpo (CTNX) in Burbank, California this month. Hosted by The Creative Talent Network and in its eighth year, CTNX is the only event of its kind that brings together the top professionals from both the traditional and digital worlds of animation. The conference is known as a resource for education, employment, inspiration, business opportunities and, of course, fun.

Having attended the conference in 2016, Kristen Kaluba remembers her first conference as the “wild west” where she felt small in such a big ocean of artists and professionals. But it was clear in the months after the conference that the trip influenced her work in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. This impact inspired three of her fellow animation students to join her at CTNX 2017.

This time around, Kristen was no rookie. As she says, “I was on the attack! I made the changes, I grew as an artist, and now it was time to get job interviews and as many critiques as I could.” One of those interviews was with Hasbro for a Visual Development internship, where Kristen felt prepared both with her portfolio and her interview skills.

The students agreed that every artist there was not only friendly, but also willing to share advice. Attendees can sign up for professional critiques, but they can also simply walk up to an artist and ask for feedback. The students met artists in their fields of interest, such as illustrated novels or movie animation. The lectures and panels inspired the students, and helped them grow in their own endeavors.

First-time attendee Emily Martinez raves about her experience, “From start to finish, CTNX was an awesome experience. I got to meet illustrators, animators, comic artists, creators, directors, and producers all well established in their fields. That’s the amazing thing–these were just people walking around. Paul Briggs (Disney Animator) just sat down right next to me at a panel! Like it was no big deal!”

Emily gained more great experience during her visit: “At CTNX you are in direct contact with these people and their companies. They have panels, screenings, live demonstrations, and booths for individual artists. I had my portfolio reviewed by three big companies (Powerhouse Animation, Dreamworks, and Blizzard) in the span of a day, and was given solid feedback and encouragement to return next year with progress.”

Interested in attending CTNX 2018? Follow CTNX on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with events and happenings.

Kristen Kaluba with Terryl Whitlatch, animator for Disney’s Brother Bear and Star Wars

Emily Martinez with John Pomeroy, Disney Animator

Autograph with drawing by Paul Briggs, Disney Animator


Dec 2: Reception Night at MCA

Don’t miss a big night at MCA on Saturday, December 2! Memphis College of Art will be hosting a special reception on December 2 for all three exhibits on view. A Guest Lecture with Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson in conjunction with the Creativity and Inclusivity Exhibition will also be given prior to the reception in Callicott Auditorium.

RECEPTION: Saturday, December 2, 6 – 8pm, Rust Hall, MCA, Overton Park

GUEST LECTURE: Saturday, December 2, 5 – 6pm, Callicott Auditorium, Rust Hall, MCA, Overton Park

Free and open to the public. Three exhibits on view: 2017 BFA Thesis Exhibit, Creativity and Inclusivity, and Works by Jan Hankins.

Main Gallery:

2017 BFA Thesis Exhibit

Works from graduating seniors in the BFA program will be on view. More information here.

Lower Gallery:

Creativity and Inclusivity: Disability and Art in the Memphis Community

Exhibition of work created by artists from Memphis Center for Independent Living (MCIL), Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS), and MCA. This exhibition is ADA accessible. Audio guides and braille texts are available. Viewers can touch some of the artwork. More information here.

Guest Lecture: December 2, 5:00-6:00pm in Callicott Auditorium in Rust Hall prior to the Reception. Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Professor of English and bioethics at Emory University. More information here.

Alumni Gallery:

Works by Jan Hankins

Exhibit will be on view from November 29 to December 14. More information here.

Don’t miss this year’s Holiday Bazaar Preview & Purchase Party! Buy Tickets Here.

ONLINE TICKET SALES FOR THIS EVENT HAVE CLOSED. Tickets are available at the door this evening for the same price.

This year’s bazaar has more offerings, more artists, a redesigned Preview Night event, and more!

November 17: Friday night is a Preview & Purchase Party from 5 – 10pm. Tickets are $50. This is a perfect night out and an opportunity to get first dibs on all of the items. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Cash donations benefitting our scholarship fund are welcome at the bar.

The offerings at the bazaar truly run the gamut of handmade works: paintings, prints, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, kitchen items, t-shirts and wearables, silk-printed scarves, temporary tattoos, bath and body products, stickers, postcards, metals, paper goods, and more.

Some of the artists represented include: Tylur French, Susan Maakestad, Funlola’s Workshop, Eso Tolson, Erica McCarrens, Pretty Little Useful Co., Joseph Holsapple, Chloe York, Michelle Duckworth, Olivia & Ruby, Thomas Curry, Katherine Cooke Designs, and many, many others.

The Open Market will be held on Saturday from 10am – 5pm. Saturday is a free, open marketplace and all are welcome.

City Leadership/Choose901 Visits MCA Campus

MCA welcomed the City Leadership/Choose901 team to their campus on Friday, October 20.

In addition to touring Rust Hall and its many studios and departments, the Choose901 team participated in an exciting metals project with Professor Bill Price and his student assistants. Utilizing multiple tools and hot forges, the group fabricated skull bottle openers just in time for Halloween.

The visit ended with a walk-through of the popular Le Monster exhibit and refreshments with MCA staff. MCA looks forward to a continued relationship with City Leadership as current students and alumni share their mission of making Memphis a creative hub of innovation and growth.

Memphis College of Art Stops Admitting Students, Makes Plans to Close

Memphis College of Art Stops Admitting Students, Makes Plans to Close

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 24) — Facing declining enrollment, overwhelming real estate debt, and no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability, the Board of Directors of the Memphis College of Art has voted to stop recruiting new students, effective immediately, and begin making plans to close the College.

The College will now begin the orderly dissolution of MCA’s real estate and other assets to fund the College’s debt obligations and other liabilities, including providing sufficient funding to serve existing students who remain at MCA. The College is not admitting new students, and at the conclusion of fulfilling its obligations to existing students who remain in good standing, MCA will close. The precise period of time for this wind-down (“teach-out”) has yet to be determined; the College anticipates it will last through May 2020.

“It is with great sadness that we move forward with this decision,” said MCA Board Chair Henry P. Doggrell.

The Board vote resulted from a long process that eventually determined that an independent, private fine arts and design college is no longer financially sustainable in Memphis. The College’s situation is not unique – small private colleges face financial challenges across the country. Over the last months, the school’s leaders have cut costs to operate as efficiently as possible, but it wasn’t sufficient to sustain operations beyond the current academic year without continued significant community support.

During the “teach-out” period, MCA will continue its long-standing tradition of offering Community Education programs, including the Fashion Certificate Program, summer camps, and adult art classes. Many of the College’s community partnerships will continue as well. MCA’s popular Holiday Bazaar will take place as scheduled on November 17-18, with proceeds funding existing student scholarships.

“This has been a heartbreaking process,” said MCA Interim President Laura Hine. “But we remain proud of the creative energy MCA artists have long brought to Memphis, and are eternally grateful to the donors and foundations who have sustained us throughout our 81-year history. The tremendous value of the artistic contributions made by MCA faculty, students, and graduates, over many decades, simply can’t be captured in words.”

She continued: “In the immediate term our attention is focused on the internal MCA family – our students, our faculty and our staff. Going forward, we will rely on the thousands of MCA alumni in Memphis and across the country to carry on the legacy of the College through their art, their creative energy, and their innovation.”

Please direct all media inquiries to Mary Caywood, Associate VP for Marketing and Communications at the College at, 901-272-5111 or 901-218-6881, or Marilyn Koester, Communications Manager at, 901-272- 5113.

General FAQ’s

1. Is MCA closing immediately?
No. We will not admit any new students and instead will focus on serving current students who remain at MCA in good academic standing. When we fulfill our obligations to these students, Memphis College of Art will close.

2. Is Memphis College of Art merging with another college?
No. Memphis College of Art is not admitting new students effective immediately and will instead dedicate its resources to its existing students.

3. How did the College get to this position?
Economic challenges face all of the higher education market, especially small, private colleges. For MCA in particular, declining enrollment, a small endowment, and real estate debt have contributed to the precarious financial state of the College for several years. The leadership of the College (the Cabinet and the Board) worked hard to structure a sustainable model for the future, but was unable to do so.

4. How do you plan to close the College?
MCA is working with its accrediting organizations and other counselors to develop teach-out plans for the proper close-down of the College. The details of the plan are not yet finalized and, most importantly, will be driven by an overarching focus on the welfare of MCA’s current students.

5. If MCA doesn’t have money now, how will it carry on its operations until it closes?
MCA has valuable real estate assets that will be sold. The proceeds will be dedicated to meet MCA’s obligations. We will also rely on the continued generosity of donors to help MCA as we serve those students who remain at MCA.

6. Will all assets be sold?
Yes, over time all of the assets of MCA will be sold, beginning with real estate assets. Rust Hall and equipment will be retained for teaching out our students.

7. After the teach out, what’s going to happen to Rust Hall in Overton Park?
We are working with all stakeholders to determine the best disposition of Rust Hall in order to preserve this iconic building and ensure it maintains its prominent and important place in Overton Park.

8. Who owns Rust Hall?
MCA owns Rust Hall, on land owned by the City of Memphis and leased to MCA under a long-term lease.

9. Will events and exhibitions still take place?
Yes. Exhibitions, shows and traditional events, such as Holiday Bazaar, will continue. Our 67th Annual Holiday Bazaar and Fundraiser is scheduled for November 17 and 18 in the Rust Hall gallery, with net proceeds funding existing student scholarships.

10. Will Community Education and Summer Art Camp continue?
Yes. MCA plans to continue Community Education programs during the teach out. Please continue to visit our website for a listing of the available classes and the recently introduced Fashion Design Certificate Program.

Creatives are Dangerous: MCA and Creative Works

MCA students and alumni descended on the inspiring Creative Works Conference this past weekend. The three-day event featured dozens of influential design, branding, digital, and storytelling experts. Creative minds from all over the country came to share their stories and listen to others, and MCA was there in the mix.

Advancement and Alumni Coordinator and MCA alumna Kristen Rambo helped the conference staff by working as a volunteer. Her long 15-hour days spent working at the conference were worth every minute though, especially with fellow MCA volunteers, alumni Ruby Zielinski and Lexie Shaunak and student Zoe Fitzhugh, shouldering the load.

“This is truly a grassroots conference, yet it feels so much larger,” Rambo says. “It was three days of talks, panels, workshops, market, snacks, and, most of all, building relationships and esteem.”

Senior Painting and Drawing major Baleigh Kuhar says, “the Creative Works Conference was the most inspiring experience I’ve ever had as a creative.” Kuhar appreciated hearing all of the speakers express the importance of personal projects, and seeing countless individuals who spoke of stepping out of their expertise and bringing their perspective and unique skill set to an unfamiliar medium. After a conversation with opening speaker Andy J. Pizza, Kuhar felt encouraged: “He confirmed my suspicion that I can do both fine arts and illustration. And I don’t have to start from scratch either. I can take what I know from my experience and create a niche market.”

The free artist market was open on Friday and Saturday, and included several MCA alumni, like Clare Freeman with Pretty Useful Co., Funlola Coker with Funlola’s Workshop, Kong Wee Pang and Jay Crum of Taro Pop, and Samilia Colar with Texstyle.

All in all, the conference was a whirlwind of creative activity that made a meaningful impact on its participants. To keep up with Creative Works and upcoming events, visit their website:


Overton Park Launches Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Students Baleigh Kuhar, Oziel Juarez, and Esme Perkins Cross Safely with Director of Student Life and MCA Alumnus Nick Darmstaedter

Overton Park is getting serious about pedestrian safety. The first phase of a new pedestrian safety campaign launched this week.

A large banner at the corner of Poplar and Tucker—an intersection where Memphis College of Art students and park patrons regularly cross six lanes of traffic—carries the “Be Aware” messaging launched by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) earlier this year. Sandwich board signs with campaign messaging have been placed at all four corners of the intersection, as well as on interior park roads, reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians and advising pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings.

All six park institutions—Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Levitt Shell, Memphis College of Art, The Links at Overton Park, Memphis Zoo, and Overton Park Conservancy—have signed on to a campaign to increase pedestrian safety in and around Overton Park.

And Memphis College of Art students will have a bigger part to play in the coming months. Animation student Esme Perkins is creating a pedestrian safety video that will be shown throughout the park, including on the Levitt Shell screens. Graphic Design student Oziel Juarez will be creating new signage for the second phase of Overton Park’s Pedestrian Safety Campaign. His designs will be seen throughout the park and along Poplar Avenue.

“We are excited to partner with the Conservancy for this important campaign,” says Laura Hine, Interim President at Memphis College of Art. “As a college located in the heart of Overton Park, we are committed to the safety of our students. Raising awareness to ensure greater safety for our MCA community is a top priority for us, and we look forward to supporting this campaign’s endeavors.”

“Since we began managing the park in 2012, the Conservancy has been focusing on improving access to the park for people on foot, on bikes, and in wheelchairs,” says Tina Sullivan, Executive Director of Overton Park Conservancy. “The goal of this campaign is to remind everyone that the streets surrounding Overton Park have heavy pedestrian traffic and should be considered a safety zone, where extra care is warranted.”

Mayor Jim Strickland also supports the campaign: “The safety of every single person who uses our streets is important to me and my administration. I encourage every driver to increase their awareness of pedestrians in this important part of our city.”

The Be Aware messages are an application of the global Vision Zero campaign, which seeks to eliminate 100% of pedestrian fatalities while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. The Medical District launched Memphis’ first Vision Zero campaign earlier this year, inviting drivers and pedestrians to sign a pledge at MMDC generously agreed to share campaign materials with the Overton Park institutions, helping carry forward the awareness of pedestrian safety to another area of the city where pedestrians and automobiles interact heavily.

Overton Park’s Be Aware campaign follows improvements to the Poplar and Tucker intersection made earlier this year by the City of Memphis. Countdown clocks for pedestrians were installed, and crosswalks were re-striped with high-visibility paint. Pedestrians who use the push-button feature at the crosswalks also get a protected period to cross Poplar before traffic lights turn green.

Support for the enhancements to pedestrian safety at this intersection came from an ioby campaign created by Overton Park Conservancy last summer. With matching support by ioby and Transit Center, a New York City-based foundation focusing on improved mobility in cities, the Conservancy raised funds to make this high-traffic intersection safer for pedestrians.

The park institutions encourage drivers and pedestrians to sign the awareness pledge at

Le Monster Returns! Don’t miss Le Monster, Part Boo

Le Monster Returns: MCA Artists Bring Le Bonheur Patient Drawings to Life

Exhibit on View from Oct 7 – Nov 4 with Monster-themed Reception on Oct 28

After its enormously successful inaugural Le Monster exhibit last fall, MCA and Le Bonheur collaborate again to bring the community Le Monster, Part Boo. In this whimsical exhibit, MCA’s community of students, faculty, and staff have reimagined drawings of monsters originally created by the hospital’s child patients.

The project aligned with Le Bonheur’s Child Life “Art Cart” program over the summer, which gave patients the option of expressing themselves by drawing a monster. Some patients drew interpretations of their favorite classic monsters and villains, while others produced original creations ranging from scary and silly, to benevolent and bizarre.

The MCA community of artists then selected from among the 125 monster drawings and reimagined the monsters in their own styles and in various media, including drawings, paintings, sculpture, sewn fabric creations, collages, digitally created images, metal structures and wood-turned figures. The project was proposed by MCA Associate Professor Michele Noiset after being inspired by The Monster Project, an international program in which artists from around the world reinterpret children’s original artwork.

“We’re thrilled to have so many students, faculty, and local creatives participate. Funlola Coker, Lisa Tribo, Veda Reed, and Haley Morris-Cafiero will all be making monsters for the exhibit,” says MCA Gallery, Exhibit, and Lecture Coordinator, Melissa Farris, who is also creating a monster this year.

Photos of in-process and completed work may be found online through the event’s work-in-progress Facebook page.

A family-friendly, monster-themed celebration of the exhibition will take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 6–9 p.m. in the Main Gallery of Rust Hall in Overton Park. Guests are encouraged to wear costumes or monster-themed attire. Attendees have the opportunity to meet the MCA artists, view the original artwork, and purchase selected works. All proceeds benefit the artist directly, Memphis College of Art’s Scholarship Fund, and Le Bonheur’s Child Life Program.

Le Monster is one of many exhibitions that MCA hosts for the community every year. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday noon–5 p.m., and Saturday noon–7 p.m. All MCA exhibitions and receptions are free and open to the public.




Aminah deVere: Lights, Camera, Action!


Aminah deVere graduated from Memphis College of Art in 2014 and has taken her degree in Digital Media/Digital Cinema from freelancing in Downtown Memphis to working full-time at Local 24 News. Having spent the past two years at the station, Aminah is now the Producer and Segment Booker for its 9AM lifestyle talk show, Local Memphis Live.

How did you decide to come to MCA?

Out of the top professions – law, medicine, and media – I chose media, and began working on that early. Everywhere I was volunteering or interning was a direct line into my career path. Once I found out that MCA offered animation as a major, I was sold right then. After a few semesters, I switched my concentration to Digital Cinema, but took classes in both areas.

What was your favorite class or project while you were here?

Experimental Cinema. My conversations and thought processes pivoted from what can be done on-screen to what can be done with the screen. I started to interact with it, changing its texture, color, shape, and how it could respond — I had not done that before, but it’s something I always consider, especially now.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Jill Wissmiller.
Before she was my professor, I had her for review committee, and I left that day eager to be her student. She’s been more than a professor; her mentorship has been absolutely invaluable — all of the advice, encouragement, and honesty she’s poured into me, I am forever grateful for it.

If you could go back and take something different at MCA, what would it be?

I would add Stop Motion and Textiles to my list of classes, as those were top on my enrollment wishlist.

What drew you to your current job?

It was the natural next step in terms of career development. Most of my life has been spent in production, from the beginning stages to working on set with crews, through the final edit. What I’m doing now is like my thesis x5 — capturing and sharing other people’s stories. I certainly thank God for it because it’s the sum of all I’ve ever done.

How did MCA prepare you for that position?

MCA provides a massive amount of support and opportunities to better yourself and career. I could find guidance from faculty and staff at every turn. In fact, I found it quite hard to not find what I needed at MCA! There was also the student government, where I was elected President for my last year at MCA. That was a significant role, working with the rest of the student body and staff. I gained even more experience from internships.

What is the most exciting part of being a television producer?

The most exciting part is that it’s a live television show. Before and beyond the one hour, it’s on-air. There are a lot of moving parts — not just coordinating the people for tomorrow, but the theme for next week, and how to put together next month’s specials, and figuring out what elements you will actually see on screen. Nothing is locked in until it’s aired, and it’s a live render. That’s when you know what you have. I’m also working with a fantastic team, which is a huge part of all of this. Watching them thrive in their roles is motivating for me.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, the primary method for consuming media will be so different, consider the surge of streaming services available on mobile devices and 360˚ news stories! Live broadcasts will always be there and TV will evolve. God willing, I will be right in the middle of that.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Before I started this job, I joined a church ministry doing the same thing, working on a live broadcast. It pumps me up! I also challenge my brain by learning non-Latin languages with puzzling syntaxes. I figure if I understand one phrase in various structures, I could swiftly come up with several solutions to one problem by switching perspectives.

What’s your favorite thing about Memphis?

It’s diversity. If you can’t travel abroad, just walk around Memphis. On any given day there’s a festival celebrating another country that’s nestled in right here.

Alumni in Action: Creatives Take the Cake (and Flowers!)

From working at Fortune 500 companies to sustaining a thriving solo art career, graduates with a fine arts degree make an impact. As the business world realizes the value of incorporating creatives in all fields, creatives themselves are discovering ways to break out on their own. Just ask MCA alumni and entrepreneurs Courtney Lollar (BFA ’08) and Evan Leggoe (BFA ’11).

While a student at MCA, Courtney worked at Ben & Jerry’s, teaching herself how to decorate ice cream cakes. Her cake decorating skills haven’t stopped since. She has the most fun making things that taste great, and look great, too. Courtney says she often runs into people from MCA and they ask, “So you’re making cakes…do you ever make real art anymore?” Her answer is always very simple: “I make art on a mostly daily basis. It’s just not something that hangs on a wall or in a gallery…it’s art you can eat!”

Along with partner Mary Katherine Dunston, and restauranteur Aldo Dean and his wife Caroline, Courtney is opening Two Girls and a Whip, a cakery in downtown Memphis. The cakery is located on the northwest corner of Front and Talbo at 363 S. Front St. and plans to open soon. Keep up with Two Girls and a Whip on the Facebook page.



Like Courtney, alumna Evan Leggoe has taken her passion to the next level. This year, Evan launched Thicket, a floral design company based in Atlanta, Georgia. When Evan moved to Atlanta five years ago, she thought that floral design would be a potentially fun and rewarding job. With no experience in the field, Evan was hired because her bosses figured (correctly) that her art degree meant that she would be able to do the work.

As Evan says, “I took to floral design easily, utilizing the elements and principles of design that I honed during my education and it wasn’t long before I desired to be doing this work on my own terms.”

After she began to receive more freelance opportunities, Evan made the leap to business owner. Her company is thriving, and her work is beautiful. As Evan says, “Getting paid to do something that brings you joy is the ultimate and elusive goal for most creatives, and I feel like I have found that in floral design.” Visit Thicket’s website for more examples of Evan’s work.


MCA Hosts National Portfolio Day October 14


Memphis College of Art Hosts National Portfolio Day on Oct. 14

WHAT:            National Portfolio Day (NPD) at Memphis College of Art (MCA). The event is free and open to any prospective art student of high school or college level.

  • 19 colleges and universities will be represented at this year’s National Portfolio Day in Memphis, and prospective art students from the Mid-south region will gather to meet with officials from art colleges around the United States and Canada.
  • National Portfolio Day brings together students and experienced college representatives who review artwork, offer critique, discuss college plans and share information about their schools. There are 38 National Portfolio Day events in the U.S. and Canada.
  • The events provide a taste of what it would be like to attend a professional art college.
  • More information about the NPDA national schedule is available at

WHEN:             Saturday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

  • 10 a.m.–Noon Welcome and Tours
  • Noon–4 p.m.: Portfolio Reviews
  • 10 a.m.–2 p.m.: Food Trucks

WHERE:           Rust Hall, 1930 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104, Overton Park

WHY:               The National Portfolio Day Association (NPDA) was created in 1978 and consists of representatives from regionally accredited colleges and universities that are members of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD represents the highest standard of visual arts education available in the United States and Canada.

Memphis’ National Portfolio Day is one of two NPD events that MCA hosts each year. MCA will host a second NPD event in New Orleans on Jan. 13, 2018. More information about this event is forthcoming. MCA will also be hosting an independent Portfolio Day in conjunction with the Knoxville Museum of Art in Knoxville, TN on November 11, 2017.

Colleges participating in the Memphis NPD include Alfred University, School of Art and Design, Art Academy of Cincinnati, California College of the Arts, College for Creative Studies, The Cooper Union School of Art, FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, George Mason University School of Art, Laguna College of Art + Design, Maryland Institute College of Art, Memphis College of Art, Montserrat College of Art, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Watkins College of Art, Design & Film.

Laura Hine Writes about MCA’s Influence in Commercial Appeal

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.


Alumnus Mathis Ryan: Designing for the City

                                                                               Sample work created by Mathis for City of Memphis

Mathis Ryan graduated from MCA in 2011 with a Bachelors in Design Art with a focus on Sequential Narrative and a Minor in Art History. After graduation, he bounced around a few design jobs from an Impress Associate at Office Max, to a Headstone Designer, to an Illustrator for Brother International. He currently is the Lead Graphic Designer for the City of Memphis in Marketing and Communications. Mathis is engaged to another MCA Alumni, Elizabeth Waylett, and they live about three blocks from where they both graduated with their cat, Bill, and their dog, Saxon.

How did you decide to come to MCA?

I was born in Memphis, and one of the first places I lived was Midtown, on Cox. My Aunt was driving me down Poplar on the way home one day (I couldn’t have been older than six or seven), and, as we passed Overton Park, she told me that’s where artists go to school, and I might go there someday myself. Well, it stuck. When I graduated high school, I joined the Air Force with the goal in mind to register for MCA after a couple of years into my enlistment. It always felt like I was supposed to go there, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

What was your favorite class or project while you were here?

It would have to be one of the comic projects in Sequential Narrative. My classmates and I made webcomics and had our critique done via Skype by Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. If you don’t know who those guys are, check out Broodhollow and Table Titans. You won’t regret it.

Who was your favorite teacher?

I really couldn’t pick just one. Joel Priddy was like a father figure to all of us comic and illustration guys. We all still refer to composition elements as “kisses” and “horses asses” because of him. Jim Ramsey is one of the most knowledgeable art history professors I could have hoped to meet, and he’s the reason I took enough AH classes to get a minor in it. David Burton made reading fun, and we still compare reading lists and discuss what we’ve read as if I never left his class. Lastly, Drawing Composition with Remy Miller. Nothing like listening to obscure Bob Dylan while having your drawing project that you labored for hours over be karate-chopped apart by a guy that knows a rush job when he sees it. Taught me to take more time on my projects, as folks can always tell.

If you could go back and take something different at MCA, what would it be?

Metals probably. I helped a friend on her projects a couple of times, and something about working with those delicate saws and intricate tools was really fun. Even though I cut myself a bunch.

What would people be surprised to learn about your MCA education?

That I never once took a painting class, and never have I ever fired a kiln. My handwriting has been, and always will be, terrible, and working with construction paper is for all ages.

What drew you to your current job?

They were hiring? (jk, lol)
The cool thing about design is how it elevates things, I wanted to do my part to pretty up the city that I call home. In any case, I see it as the the opportunity to improve my skills, while still having enough bacon in the icebox. Plus, I, like, totally once shared an elevator with the Mayor.

How did MCA prepare you for that position?

The Graphic Design instructors I had at the time were monsters for detail. Everything needed to be measured down to the nearest pica, and god help you if you didn’t use a bone-folder. Plus, I got real good with an exacto-knife.

What do you like to do with your design degree that doesn’t have to do with you work?

I’d like to get back to comics full time, but they ain’t exactly hiring at the doodle plant. Currently, me and a bunch of other Alumni are working on a project that I’m not at liberty to announce just yet. Use context clues to guess at what that might be.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Draw and play video games in between housework and seeing friends, and get in fights with strangers on the internet.

What’s your favorite thing about Memphis?

My dog lives here. That, and there’s, like, ten parks within biking distance from my house. Seriously, Memphis is one of the greenest cities in the world, why would I want to live anywhere else?

Olivia Ritter: Be Uncomfortable

Because of a Ferris Scholarship and a Hohenberg Foundation Summer Traveling Fellowship, Design Arts student Olivia Ritter was able to spend her summer in Israel focusing on sustainability and sculpture with Desert Days Eco-village. Olivia went through a formal application process and was chosen by MCA Student Affairs for the Hohenberg award, after which she received the Ferris Summer Internship award. We are thankful to our donors for making trips like this possible. Read about Olivia’s exciting opportunity below!

How did you find out about this internship?

Over the past semester, I had done lots of research on traveling with a limited budget. I found websites like “Go Abroad” and “All Hands Volunteers,” but they all seemed trendy and much too overpriced. After hours of online research, I ended up finding a small organization called GoEco that provided various trips around the world, some cheaper and some more expensive. I ended up finding Desert Days Eco-village, a small up and coming community that allowed volunteers to build infrastructures, sculptures, and re-purpose pre existing structures out of the local materials.

What did you do to make this internship happen?

I sent in letters of recommendation and provided research on personal and external objectives, passions for wanting to visit, and basic proof of a willingness to work hard.

What types of projects did you work on?

The majority of the work included creating the mud mixtures, which were dirt (clay), hay, sand, and water. From this mixture, we built an outdoor sofa set with a table, reformed existing buildings, created the desert days sign, built an ornamental mirror for the homes, created a fully working kitchen, and built various other sculptures.

Were there any surprises on the job that you weren’t expecting?

I know personally, I did not think I would do any long hikes, but ended up solo-hiking from the West coast of Israel to the East coast of Israel in three days. What did I have with me to guide me across the country? A Hebrew map (all I could find), a compass, and a backpack with some food, a hammock, and a pair of socks. I think the most unexpected occurrence was how relaxed and trusting of myself I was to know that I could protect myself if in danger, but appreciate the beauty of my surroundings when I wasn’t. Even at night, I experienced hyenas, wild bores, snakes, etc., but, unlike when I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I realized: how could nature and living in the wilderness be such a fearful and foreign place? Something so natural, yet seemingly uncomfortable, in relation to the bustling city.

What was your favorite thing about living in Israel?

Realizing how different the perception of Israel is in relation to how it’s perceived via U.S. propaganda. I hitchhiked quite a bit in Israel, perhaps ignorantly; however, it’s very common for the people to help one another out if they are on the side of the road or really need assistance in any way. After hitchhiking all day pre-hiking adventure, I was walking through the city, and a man spoke to me and provided me lunch and a nice conversation. He ended up taking me to a place on the beach I could sleep on that would not kick me out for sleeping over night. As skeptical as I generally am, it seemed that throughout the trip, the people provided soulful guidance.

How did the internship affect your career or life plans?

This trip further helped me see the importance of travel as a lifestyle and knowing that wherever you go, there will be an opportunity for you if you look hard enough.

How did MCA prepare you for this internship?

MCA helped me obtain the funding for the trip, and provided excitement for pursuing my goals.

What advice would you have for students who want to pursue a similar internship?

Of all the things to focus on, it is most important to do the uncomfortable. To do the things that are so different from what you do everyday, that it almost seems unrealistic. Once you realize how capable of an individual you are to pursue the unknown, the possibilities in this world are infinite. Actions precede feelings. I can choose to feel afraid anywhere, in my home, on the streets, in the middle of the woods, but if you aren’t living in excitement but instead living with a false sense of security, are you truly living?

What’s your dream job after graduation?

The dream job is one that isn’t a job at all, but instead a way of living. It’s important to realize that humans aren’t meant for a monopathic lifestyle or narrowed-discipline, but a polymathic lifestyle. As a child, we grow up creating and desiring a wide variety of interests, but slowly they become narrowed down to one routine. It’s important to keep this investigative and creative child within all of us as a base for living and to pair it with the discerned and skeptic eye. Eventually, I would like to form an independent schooling system that focuses on integrating the relationship of courses and teaches each student the significance of expertise in various subjects, similar to that of the Renaissance Man and Aristotelian style methods. With lesser knowledge comes greater fear, and if you make the action to pursue your passion while eliminating your inhibitions, you can do anything.


“I am. Amen.”: Activist Artist Hank Willis Thomas is Pryor Lecturer

WHAT: Globally-renowned artist Hank Willis Thomas is giving this year’s Downing Pryor Lecture at the Memphis College of Art. He is a co-founder of the first-ever artist-driven super PAC, For Freedoms, and his work is meant to initiate dialogue about race, politics, and art and is particularly relevant to Memphis in the 50th year after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The lecture, “I am. Amen,” is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 14, 6:00-8:30pm. Reception from 6:00-7:00pm, with lecture and Q&A following.

WHERE: Callicott Auditorium, Rust Hall, Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar Ave, 38104

Facebook Event

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, the International Center of Photography and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Thomas’s work is in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, which Thomas co-founded in 2016 as the first-ever artist-run super PAC. For Freedoms was recently awarded the 2017 ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also the recipient of the 2017 Soros Equality Fellowship. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and a MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. He has also received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Thomas lives and works in New York City.

                                                                             Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery

“This series of paintings (above) was inspired by a 1968 photograph by Ernest Withers of marchers during the Memphis sanitation workers March. Martin Luther King was assassinated while there in support of the March. The men carried signs which read ‘I am a Man’. I found it fascinating that the phrase I grew up with was ‘I am THE Man’. The collective statement became individualistic in the age of integration. Reflecting on American history I wanted to riff and remix the text, ultimately ending with the revelation ‘I Am. Amen.’ MLK showed us that our greatest gift is our consciousness and it is up to us what we choose to do with it.” Hank Willis Thomas, from Artist of the Day

For media inquiries, contact Communications Manager Marilyn Koester by email at or by phone at (901) 272-5113.


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