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VOL. 121 | NO. 4 | Friday, December 23, 2005

Rhodes Names New Leader for Arts Outreach Center

By Lane Gardner Camp

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"To me, the arts are what make life interesting. They tell us what it is to be human and how to embrace that condition more fully."
- John Weeden
Name: John Weeden
Position: Assistant director
Company: Rhodes College's Center for Outreach in the
Development of the Arts
Basics: Weeden builds on his extensive background in the arts to help students attain their goals in arts- related fields.

John Weeden calls himself an "arts facilitator."

"I am not a brilliant painter, actor or musician, but because of my participation in those fields, I do recognize the potential for brilliance in others, and I take great satisfaction in assisting artists and students to attain their goals and make their abstract ideas a concrete reality," he explained.

In October, Weeden took another step toward fulfilling this career objective when he was named assistant director of the Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts at Rhodes College in Memphis.

Promotion of the arts. The center was established by Rhodes this year with a grant of about $5 million secured by Dr. Tim Sharp, CODA director, from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust of Wichita Falls, Texas, Weeden said.

Because Rhodes wants to "make a significant contribution to the promotion and cultivation of the arts in the Memphis area," it has established what Weeden calls the CODA scholarship program for instruction in fine arts leadership.

Specifically, 16 students - four per class, per year - receive $12,500 each year to participate.

"It is not intended to make better painters, actors or musicians, but to expose students with backgrounds in or strong interest in these areas to the ways arts organizations function, both internally and in society," Weeden said.

Preparing for the future. He said students will emerge from the program "well prepared for internships in arts institutions, further graduate work in arts fields and entry level careers in arts administration."

CODA, however, is not just for students interested in arts careers.

"It is also for those students who wish to become doctors, lawyers or business persons but will remain active in the culture of their local communities as potential board members of arts organizations," Weeden said.

"It is our goal to train students to be confident, well-versed and vocal advocates for the arts and their role in the broader public sphere."

All-around art lover. After graduating from Rhodes in 1997 with a degree in art history, Weeden knew he wanted to be involved with the visual arts in particular, but with the cultural fields in general. He tried writing and curating but found that working and interacting with students has turned out to be, for him, the most rewarding work.

His love of the arts is at the core of all he has done, though.

"To me, the arts are what make life interesting," he said. "They tell us what it is to be human and how to embrace that condition more fully."

Extensive experience. In addition to his degree from Rhodes, Weeden has a master's degree in post-war and contemporary art from Sotheby's Institute of Art in London. He has held internships in London, Paris and New York.

Currently, he is completing his thesis for a master's degree in curatorial studies from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Prior to joining Rhodes, Weeden served as volunteer director of the Lantana Projects, a nonprofit residency program in Memphis for international visual artists.

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