For more than 30 years, MCA students have been following in the footsteps of American artist Walter Anderson as they make a 12-day excursion to Horn Island, a pristine barrier island off the coast of Mississippi. Horn Island’s unspoiled vistas, rich marine life and hundreds of species of birds provided inspiration for many of Anderson’s paintings, sculptures and writings, and continue to inspire the work of students and alumni in MCA’s annual Horn Island Exhibition.
The program began in 1985 under the direction of Professor Emeritus Bob Riseling and continues today under the direction of Assistant Professor Don DuMont. The annual excursion is designed to get students out of the studio and engage them in a natural setting that challenges them to new perspectives. Students keep a journal/sketchbook with daily entries of their personal experience and create island assignments. They are on their own to explore the island, engage with other members of the group, exchange ideas, and participate in island traditions that may be a catalyst for their creativity.
The program is offered during the first summer session in May. Students register for three hours of studio credit and participate in all of the pre- and post-trip logistics including preparation of equipment, loading out stores, setting up main camp, performing island duties and all other aspects of what is necessary for a large group to survive for ten days on an island with no amenities. One other requirement: no cell phones or mobile devices. “I believe that one must disconnect in order to reconnect. That is what the island can provide—the chance to get away from routine daily distractions, to look inward as well as outward, to focus on one’s surroundings,” says DuMont, “that’s when the creative transformation takes place.”
Students are required to visit the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Miss., exploring Anderson’s work before leaving for the island. Once they return, all participants create their own body of work for the annual Horn Island Exhibition in August. Artwork developed for the exhibition use traditional and non-traditional method from all disciplines—drawing, painting, sculpture, illustration, ceramics, metals, photography, printmaking and digital media. DuMont notes that an important part of the development of the students’ exhibition work is the discussion of options and methods to present their work in a professional manner—part of the Professional Practices program at MCA.
Click here to view video from a Horn Island excursion.
“I believe that one must disconnect in order to reconnect. That is what the island can provide—the change to get away from routine daily distractions, to look inward as well as outward, to focus on one’s surroundings. That’s when the creative transformation takes place.”
Assistant Professor Don DuMont,Horn Island Program Director