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VOL. 132 | NO. 53 | Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Memphis College of Art Program Works With Non-Degree-Seeking Artists

By Andy Meek

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Degree-seeking artists and aspiring graphic designers aren’t the only students found in the halls and classrooms at Memphis College of Art.

Julia Hinson is among a group of students enrolled in an adult painting class hosted on Fridays at MCA. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

There are also artistic types like Lauren Waites – a PR specialist at Archer Malmo who appreciates and pursues art in her spare time.

She’d been wanting to learn how to sew, but didn’t know where to start. Needing an affordable option that accommodated her hectic work schedule, she turned to one of the art college’s offerings – a sewing class for beginners that’s part of its adult continuing education program.

The classes are part of offerings outside the college’s curriculum for students that have earned the college some measure of distinction. The offerings also represent an opportunity for the college to pursue its mission of, as MCA director of community education Cece Palazola puts it, “really sharing the joy of art-making with the greater Memphis community, because we just feel like everyone can benefit from making art and expressing themselves.”

The college’s so-called “community education” classes are non-credit, with adult courses offered in the fall, spring and summer. Courses usually meet for six sessions, though some shorter courses and workshops are also sometimes offered.

Unless otherwise noted, classes are held in Rust Hall, considered the main campus for undergraduate students. Instructors for the generally small classes are typically working artists and teaching artists.

“The Beginning Sewing class was the perfect opportunity for me to learn the basics in a hands-on, collaborative environment,” Waites said. “The class met once a week for six weeks after work hours, and was a classroom-style setting with a knowledgeable instructor and friendly peers. We learned how to read a commercial pattern, use interfacing, sew darts, operate a sewing machine, and other basic sewing skills. The class helped me gain a new understanding of sewing and design.”

The college’s adult classes are open to anyone age 16 or older. They’re intended for anyone interested in learning new skills, shoring up existing skills or picking up a new creative outlet, from beginners to more experienced artists.

The community education program also offers Saturday School and Summer Art Camp for kids and teens. MCA also offers private lessons in several subjects.

The college of art recently announced that its Summer Art Camp program has won accreditation status from the American Camp Association. The college said it will also offer 12 new classes for the 2017 summer camp, including Design Thinking, Digital Painting, Animation, Kinetic Sculpture and Fashion Design.

Palazola estimates the community education program saw around 800 people last year. Most of them were young people, with around 200 being adult students, she said.

“The community education program is open to anyone out in the community who wants to learn a little bit more about art or delve deeper into an art subject without the pressure of going for a degree or seeking credit,” she said. “We just want to offer that in the best circumstances, and we have college-level facilities, faculty at our disposal and lots of teaching artists.”

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