Brianna McKissack-Martin, Pen and ink

Brianna McKissack-Martin, Pen and ink

The Parthenon Artist-in-Residence Program

by DeeGee Lester

“Experience can be a way of our coming to possess aesthetic concepts.” – Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good

Throughout the centuries, the great museums of the world have served as vibrant schools of art, offering students the rare opportunity to learn from the works of masters, to examine and sketch within the grandeur of the museum and amid the bustle of museum guests. Within this active studio, visitors pause to watch artists at work and to admire and discuss art. The Parthenon offers Nashville students access to an unmatched, inspiring learning environment for the exploration of classical art. And this year, the museum expanded that access to four advanced art students from Hillwood’s Academy of Art, Design and Communication through the multi-layered Parthenon Artist-in-Residence experience.

Sophomores Chandler Bomar, Kiaya McKissack, Brianna McKissack-Martin, and Destiny Phillips had the rare opportunity to spend time with the classical sculpture casts of the Elgin Marbles housed in the Parthenon, exploring the topics of beauty, truth, and excellence in art while strengthening their drawing skills. Through close attention and regular and repeated access to the sculptures over several months, the residents increased aesthetic knowledge and broadened their own aesthetic conceptual repertoire. Confronting the classical sculptures also served as the tool for strengthening the students’ visual relationship with the three-dimensional form and their ability to translate three-dimensional forms to two-dimensional drawings.

Artists-in-residence sketch statues in the Parthenon. Photograph by Dona Berotti

Artists-in-residence sketch statues in the Parthenon. Photograph by Dona Berotti

Through the residency, students had the chance to work with MBA art teacher/Parthenon docent Jim Womack, who has developed his own sketches of the Elgin casts over the years. In addition, they spent time in a professional studio with Athena sculptor Alan LeQuire. Another highlight was the opportunity to Skype with Robert Bodem, Director of Sculpture at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, and with fellow Academy instructor Richard Greathouse, a Nashville native and MBA graduate.

This opportunity to talk with and get advice from a leading sculptor/teacher reminded students how very connected they are with the world and the importance of seeing beyond their hometown. “We forget how small the world really is and that, within the art community, there is a very strong connection, no matter how young or old we are or where we live,” says Hillwood art teacher Dona Berotti.

The excitement of meeting up via technology was appreciated at both ends. “I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the kids,” says Bodem. “Perhaps I could inspire the possibilities available. It’s very easy to eliminate paths [where] our lives may lead.”

The prolonged and regular sketching also inspired the students. Brianna talked about the impact on her own art with access to “the jaw-dropping culture on display” and the opportunity for “drawing and learning from the ancient Greek statues and architecture.”

Skype session with Robert Bodem, Director of Sculpting at The Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. Photograph by Dona Berotti

Skype session with Robert Bodem, Director of Sculpting at The Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. Photograph by Dona Berotti

As they worked, students discovered the joy of interacting with an interested public. “People will stop, stare, and talk,” Kaiya says. “But that’s the best part of working at the Parthenon.”
Their residencies will conclude with an exhibit of their work later this summer at the Parthenon. But whether talking about the Parthenon’s “exquisite beauty,” the historical connections to the past, or the “delight” in this experience, students will walk away from their spring residency with a renewed awareness for what is possible in their lives and careers.

The program would not have been possible without an amazing selection of supplies donated to each student through the generous support of Plaza Artist Materials and Picture Framing (www.plazaart.com), proving again the strong connections of the art community that can be traced back through the centuries. Visit www.parthenon.org for more information.

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