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Staff members complete inaugural creative residencies – Picayune Item

Staff members complete inaugural creative residencies

Posted 2:45 p.m. Thursday, August 18, 2022

OXFORD, Mississippi — Fifteen University of Mississippi staff members recently completed their first week of residency designed to enable them to advance creative projects outside of their formal positions.

Participants in the Staff Creative Residencies Initiative were selected from a pool of 48 applicants. The Provost’s Office paid for each recipient at their regular rate plus a $500 allowance for expenses.

“Creative Staff Residencies support UM staff members who create, share, interpret and apply transformative knowledge,” said John T. Edge, director of the Mississippi Lab, the new university program that envisioned and planned the residential homes. “The work that emerges from these residencies is an engine of progress and economic growth in our state.”

Edge; Afton Thomas, associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture; and Andrea Jekabsons, the university’s director of human resources, reviewed and scored each application in several areas, including growth, impact, and how the project reflects the university’s mission.

“Due to the amount of strong applicants, we have expanded the number of recipients from 10 to 15,” Jekabsons said.

Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator at the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, displays photographic portraits of LGBTQ Mississippians he captured during his creative residency. Photo by Bruce Newman Photography

Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator at the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, produced photographic portraits of LGBTQ Mississippians using natural light in environmental settings. His business is something he studied nine years ago in a photojournalism class, but didn’t get a chance to try again until residency.

During the week, Cozart took photos across the state in Tupelo, Columbus, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Jackson, Cleveland and Clarksdale, and out of state in Memphis and New Orleans.

“I think the biggest impact is the freedom to be creative for myself and not use my creativity on other people’s projects,” Cozart said. “It’s been a long time since I took pictures for myself and not for a project or a concert.”

Cole Russell, Print Services Manager at Print and Graphic Design Services, developed sign painting skills with a mentor. He interviewed artist Bill Warren, who produced and installed signs for several storefronts in downtown Water Valley.

“It’s something that has puzzled me for a long time,” Russell said.

“Bill was very helpful in explaining the proper techniques and tools he used over the years to produce his star sign work. Being able to research and gather the materials put me in an ideal place to expand further my interest.I hope one day to create custom signs and murals for my community.

Frank Estrada, visual resource specialist and gallery curator in the Department of Art and Art History, shows off a piece he developed during his personal creative residency, in which he worked on his skills in augmented reality and animation. Photo by Bruce Newman Photography

Sydney DuPriest, Associate Director of Campus Communications and University Marketing and Communications Engagement, honed her quilting and learning skills by working with Water Valley’s Coulter Fussell.

“Coulter walked me through the different quilting techniques that I could use, but also how to think about working with material from someone else, and how to honor that and add value to it,” he said. she declared. “Spending this uninterrupted, dedicated time on something so fulfilling has helped change the way I think about what’s possible in the pockets of time between work and family and day-to-day responsibilities.

“It reminded me that these free moments are precious and full of potential.”

University development communications specialist Mary Knight is writing a book that will be part of the biography of Water Valley native and Cold War poet Hubert Creekmore; an autobiography part, as it will include aspects of his research to learn more about the locked-up Mississippi writer; and a pictorial essay on places important to Creekmore and Knight.

“This book is a continuation of research I began in 2019 for my MFA thesis requirements, which resulted in an article detailing Creekmore’s letters and articles in various archives and a short documentary, ‘Dear Hubert Creekmore’,” Knight said. “The film screened at the Oxford Film Festival and the Queerbee Film Festival in London, England.

“I’m thrilled at the opportunity this grant gives me to give my research a new way to share my Creekmore findings with a wider audience.”

Other residency beneficiaries include:

  • Rachel Coleman, academic advisor and records coordinator at Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, has developed belly dancing classes for prenatal and postnatal women
  • Kirstie Manning with a coloring book page she designed at Kirstie Manning, a human resources assistant in the UM Department of Human Resources, used her staff’s creative residency to create a coloring book of hairstyles and hairstyles. Photo by Bruce Newman Photography

    Nikki Neely Davis, Executive Director of University Development Development, deconstructed and reconstructed vintage hats to explore gender and other themes

  • Caelyn Ditz, counselor at the University Counseling Center, developed her papermaking skills
  • Frank Estrada, visual resource specialist and gallery coordinator in the Department of Art and Art History, has developed new art, incorporating augmented reality and animation skills
  • Kate Forster, Director of Advocacy at UMatter Student Support and Advocacy, explored the sculptural processes in clay
  • Kirstie Manning, Human Resources Assistant in the Department of Human Resources, has made a coloring book of hairstyles and headdresses
  • Anna McKnight, sewage treatment plant supervisor, mixing oil painting and fiction writing
  • Sara Camp Milam, editor of the Southern Foodways Alliance; created new recipes
  • Anne Pringle, operations coordinator in the Department of Chemical Engineering, has developed a watercolor book for children
  • Rachel Scott, Evaluation Associate at the Center for Evaluation of Research, has expanded her beekeeping and craft repertoire
  • Casey Cockrell Stuart, Assistant Director of Employer Services at the Career Center, has written a book on food allergy superpowers

Week-long residencies took place in June and July. Each of the residents will follow up with a self-assessment in August.

A presentation of the results is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 1 at Johnson Commons.