As Mississippi’s flagship university of the arts, The University of Southern Mississippi prides itself on the richness of culture and art. One only needs to look to its Department of Art and Design, where a number of instructors have had their works on exhibit throughout the country.
Two art professors were part of two different exhibits at two of the most prestigious art museums in the region. The works of assistant professor Allen Chen were showcased at the esteemed Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi. In addition to being a featured artist in the Jagged Fragments exhibition in November, Chen also hosted a “Throw and Tell” ceramics workshop at the museum.
“It was a great honor to be part of the four-person show at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum,” Chen exclaimed. “I was able to take advantage of the unique gallery space and install work dramatically high in air. The relationship we have with Ohr-O’Keefe is one we are certainly proud to have and we look forward to future projects with them.”
Art professor and interim department chair Jennifer Torres currently has work on exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson as part of the Mississippi Invitational. The exhibition, introduced in 1997, is a biennial event that showcases work from many different artists throughout the state. Torres’ work is on display at the museum through March.
The Mississippi Museum of Art has been displaying the best in visual arts for more than 100 years. In 2010, the museum was awarded the National Medal for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum of Library Services, the only art museum to be recognized that year. The medal is the most prestigious national honor to be given annually.
“It’s such an honor to be included in the Mississippi Invitational as one of the best sculptors in the state,” Torres said. “My piece, Shiny, Cheap, and Happy has a beautiful spot in the museum, and I could not be more thrilled. This is an esteemed honor for me, and a testament to the quality of Southern Miss art and design faculty.
In addition to the honor of having their art displayed, the two instructors are dedicated to educating Southern Miss’ aspiring artists in the classroom and in the studio. “The galleries and museums that showcase Southern Miss faculty works know we have incredibly talented artists who not only teach the artists of tomorrow, but create artistically engaging works in their own right.”
“We have an excellent group of faculty members who not only teach the artists of tomorrow, but create artistically engaging works in their own right. Our students are finding success after graduation. They are finding jobs, operating their own studios and creating professional level work. That is a really positive thing about what’s happening at Southern Miss, but it’s not surprising. We have a great department,” Torres said.
The Department of Art and Design, an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, has grown significantly in the respective fields of graphic design, sculpture, foundations, and drawing and painting.
“I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my time to our wonderful department here at Southern Miss,” Chen said. “The strength of our department is in how much energy we as faculty pour into this program. We have talented and hardworking students, and they deserve our full investment.”
Chen believes the arts are important because they help develop a well-rounded scholar who can think logically, critically and abstractly. “I believe math and science are essential to studying the observable world. Art is the conduit, the experiential component to our understanding of the world,” Chen said.
Torres says that artists are the lenses of the times in which we live. “We are the ones who are taking in everything going on around us, and imagining it in a different and creative way. Artists have a unique role in society, be it a visual artist or a dancer, our job is to take everything going on around us and to put it back out there in the language of art for people to sink their teeth into.”