MCA News

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.


President Laura Hine Welcomes the MCA Community Back for Fall

Dear MCA Community,

Welcome back to Memphis College of Art for the fall semester! The solar eclipse occurring on the first day of classes August 21 provides an exciting marker for the start of this academic year.

Our faculty, staff, alumni, and students have been busy this summer with internships, exhibitions, and awards. Also this summer, we received a technology grant from ArtsMemphis to support UX/UI learning. Horn Island 33 had a record number of participants. We begin the first year of the MCA Tuition Guarantee, which freezes tuition at current levels for all students. We are now able to recognize our animation students by showing their work across campus on our digital screens. Our Summer Art Camp had an outstanding year, and Summer Academy for rising high school students returned with great success.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Warren “Bud” Richey, our new VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. Bud most recently held the Associate VP of External Programs position at Rhodes College, where he served in a variety of capacities over the last 14 years and was often referred to as the “Jobfather” for his support of student job searches. Prior to Rhodes, Bud served as the Associate Dean of Students at U of M, and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Orientation at LSU. In 2016, Bud received the cityCURRENT Spark Award for “Leader of the Year” in Education. Bud’s first day at MCA will be August 14.

We are fortunate to be in an institution that values creativity, both in and out of the classroom. I hope that each member of our community has a pleasant and rewarding start to fall, and look forward to seeing each of you around campus.

Laura Hine, President

Disconnect/Reconnect: Horn Island 33

Disconnect/Reconnect: Horn Island 33

Explore. Discover. Create. MCA’s Horn Island is more than a trip. It’s a tradition.

This unique, signature program sets MCA apart from any other college. For more than thirty years, students have followed in the footsteps of American artist Walter Anderson to Horn Island, a remote barrier island off of the coast of Mississippi. Participants leave cell phones, bathrooms, and expectations behind.

It sounds daunting, but, as alumnus Casey Matthews said in a recent Country Roads article, “It’s taking yourself out of the mundane day-to-day activities and placing yourself in this different situation where you’re subject to a higher power—in this case nature. The island is more relevant today than it’s ever been. Because we’re so connected to everything.”

The experience of disconnecting and getting back to nature reflects the unique philosophy of MCA: Challenge leads to creativity and triumph.

Associate Professor and Horn Island Director Don DuMont explains why unplugging is key: “One must disconnect in order to reconnect. That is what the island can provide – the chance to get away, to look inward as well as outward, and to focus on one’s surroundings. That’s when creative transformation takes place.”

Horn Island isn’t a vacation. It’s an artistic journey. This year, over 40 participants made the 11-day excursion, immersing themselves in the isolation and beauty of the island.

Horn Island is open to students (supported by sponsors), alumni, faculty, and staff. Following the trip, participants create works of art inspired by their experience on the island. Those works culminate in a popular and beloved yearly exhibition, celebrated this year as “Horn Island 33” for its thirty-third installment.

Select Horn Island works from previous years are exhibited at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi through August 22. The exhibition brochure for “The Islanders: Memphis College of Art and Horn Island” has quotes and images from our artists.

Horn Island 33 opens in Rust Hall’s Upper, Lower and Alumni Galleries on August 14 and runs until September 29. The Horn Island 33 Reception, held on Saturday, August 26 from 5:30-8:30pm, features grilled SPAM, an island tradition.The reception is free and open to the public. Artwork will be on sale while the exhibit is on view, and remaining artworks will be listed on from October 9 to October 30. Visit for more details.

Memphis College of Art does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or other status protected by law. Additional Information