creative:impact - Getting the 3D view on EMU’s new 3D Arts Complex
Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.
ABOUT SANDRA MURCHISON:
Professor Sandra Murchison is currently the Director of the School of Art & Design at Eastern Michigan University. Prior to EMU, she taught at Millsaps College, serving as the Chair of the Art Department and she founded a non-profit art center off campus in Jackson, Mississippi. An active member of SGC International, she served first as Archivist and then as Vice President for Internal Affairs of the organization. Apart from her duties as School Director, she is also the Director of the Parsons Center for Arts & Sciences, an offsite campus in northern Michigan.
Murchison aims to do meaningful work through artistic means, careful stewardship in administrative responsibilities and service in the community. Her mixed media prints and paintings have shown internationally, and she has been an invited visiting artist at institutions across this country. In addition, she has taught at such places as the Center for Contemporary Printmaking and Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. Sandra Murchison received the Millsaps College Distinguished Professor Award in 2013 and was a finalist for the Joan Mitchell Foundation grant for painters. Her work as an administrator has garnished multiple grants from the Windgate Foundation and the Horn Foundation. Murchison's current community volunteer work includes serving as the Chair - Elect of the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Arts Administrators. She received an MFA from Louisiana State University and a BFA from Alfred University, with teaching certification.
Deb Polich: This is 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for this segment we call creative:impact. It's a pleasure to welcome you every Tuesday to meet the artists, creative people, businesses, and organizations impacting creatively Washtenaw County's quality of life, place and economy. Thanks for tuning in. It's September, and that means school in session. Whether pre-K through 12 or the university level, the routine of the school year is familiar. Even as familiar as it is, every academic year is overlaid with some change. My guest today, Sandra Murchison, is the school director for Eastern Michigan University's School of Art and Design. She's expecting exciting changes in the coming months, and she's here to tell us about it. Sandra, welcome to the WEMU studios.
Sandra Murchison: Thank you so much for having me. This is a delight.
Deb Polich: I'm so glad you're here. So, we live in an academic community with, what, five or six universities and colleges. However, rather than assuming we know what you do as the director of the School of Art and Design, give us an inside look.
Sandra Murchison: I'm happy to. Thank you so much. I have a wonderful job because it requires me to do all sorts of different tasks from A to Z. I get to work with students and advise them on their curriculum decisions. I work with faculty on the larger curriculum and facilities issues. We decide what equipment needs to be purchased, and I also have a hand in when things need to be fixed and all sorts of financial decisions. One of my tasks that I get to do is also work with donors and friends of the art school and do some fundraising. And, in the past few years, we've had an incredible campaign successfully completed to build now the Windgate Arts complex. So, I've had the pleasure of working with people who are really dedicated to arts, and I know that's something that you track really close.
Deb Polich: Absolutely. So, let me let me ask the question. So, I'm glad you introduced the 3D arts complex because, frankly, that's what I really wanted to talk about. And I'm glad to know that it's being called the Windgate, so we'll get to that in a second. You've been in your position since about 2016. What did you find when you came to EMU from Mississippi--I got to say that. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I-- where you led several academic positions, had several academic positions, and ran a nonprofit arts program? What was here when you came here?
Sandra Murchison: Yeah. Great question. Indeed, I was really fortunate to head up a small liberal arts college art department at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. And, at the same time, I started and ran a successful nonprofit arts center in a community that really needed a lot of support. I was fortunate enough, at that time, to start a nice relationship with the Windgate Foundation in Mississippi. The foundation's actually anchored in Arkansas.
Deb Polich: Okay.
Sandra Murchison: We were able to build a visual arts center there together, and, in time, I was looking with my family to make a change, and we wound up at Eastern Michigan University. And I think the faculty of the art school were particularly interested in the prospects of building a 3D arts complex, and I had reason to believe that we were a good connection--that we were a good fit.
Deb Polich: So, 3D. Tell us what that is. I mean, yeah, for our listeners. Well, describe 3D and what's all encompassing in that.
Sandra Murchison: So, for EMU, it includes ceramics, which is one of our most popular studios, furniture design, which is a really wonderful, somewhat rare studio to have. Students actually learn how to make their own furniture. Sculpture, 3D design, including digital fabrication. We also teach metals, so students can learn how to make their own jewelry.
Deb Polich: So, there's really quite a bit. So, what's the benefit of having all these disciplines in the same facility?
Sandra Murchison: Right. So, to get back to your earlier question, we are taking what is currently in three different buildings and placing them in one unified arts complex, in the same building, so that students can actually make work that includes mixed materials. So, if you are a furniture designer, you don't have to be restricted to only making furniture without hardware or within the means of a certain scale. You are able to more readily bend metal for some sort of sculpture piece that you're working on. You're able to throw a pot and think about the larger space that it's going to be in.
Deb Polich: So, instead of walking across campus, you're all in the same place and you can just go from room to room or space to space, which makes it much more convenient.
Sandra Murchison: Much more convenient, as well as you're actually more capable of doing more advanced types of work. And the students, especially the advanced students and the faculty, are really looking forward to doing collaborative work.
Deb Polich: This is 89 one WEMU and creative:impact continues. I'm Deb Polich, and my guest is Sandra Murchison, director of EMU's School of Art Design and the energy behind the new 3D arts complex being built on campus. So, you broke ground this spring. Tell us where the complex is on campus and two or three things you're particularly excited about.
Sandra Murchison: Thank you so much. So, it's on Lyman Street, which is closest to the new health center. Most people are familiar with that. We did break ground in April, and the building is going up lickety split. It is incredible to watch Grainger Construction working with Progressive AE architects. They're doing a fantastic job. The building is beautiful. The architects did a marvelous job of designing spaces that have a high-pitched roof. So, when you step into, say, the ceramics studio, it feels substantial, it feels large, and the windows are wonderful. There are a variety of shapes and sizes, so it does not seem like a pole barn.
Deb Polich: Right.
Sandra Murchison: It seems like a space that you actually want to be creative in. And the fact that I know people will be working alongside one another. The faculty offices are next to each other. There's going to be a marvelous studio for advanced undergraduate and graduate students to have their own quiet corner of the building where they can to also work side by side with one another. There's a marvelous critique atrium in the front to display students' work, as well as it becomes a gathering space for students in all these different disciplines to just sit with one another and talk in between classes, see what's happening in the other spaces, be much more aware of what's going on in the art school.
Deb Polich: That's so great. So, you mentioned students a number of times there. And ultimately that's what it's all about, right? You and I never question the importance of arts and creative education on one's life skills in the future. You've been at the forefront of this kind of creative education, and I have two questions for you. The first one is tell us what a graduate armed with a visual arts or 3D or otherwise degree might land in the future. What might they do with this degree?
Sandra Murchison: Terrific. The most typical prospect is teaching. That might be K-12, but that's frequently at the university level teaching with an MFA, a master's in fine arts. That's also an opportunity to work in galleries and museums, as well as community centers. There's a wonderful one nearby, the Riverside Art Center, that I've been a part of, and I want to say that we expect to do some workshops with the Riverside Arts Center in this new Windgate arts complex. And those kinds of teaching/working environments are the spaces that our MFA candidates are likely to land in.
Deb Polich: And what about the student who's not intending to go on in a specific arts discipline degree or not degree, lifestyle? With these skills, how will this learning help them?
Sandra Murchison: Of course. So, in higher education, we always talk about critical skills of being able to read and write and really problem solve. This is all the case, of course, in fine arts, but we also have the expectation of our students to really be decisive. They have to constantly decide for themselves how they're going to solve the problem in front of them and, hopefully, in really meaningful and beautiful ways.
Deb Polich: Well, you know, this community, not only the campus and the students, but also the community of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County really looks forward to this opening in fall of 2024. Is that right?
Sandra Murchison: That's right. So, one year from now, we're teaching classes in the new building.
Deb Polich: Excellent. Excellent. Well, we hope there's some big community celebration. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of what we're going to expect and see. And thanks for being part of the show.
Sandra Murchison: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Deb Polich: That's Sandra Murchison, director of EMU's School of Art and Design. Find out more about Sandra and EMU's 3D art complex at WEMU dot org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our wonderful producer. We invite you to join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.