NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s Department of Fine and Graphic Art and the NSU Academic Success Center hosted the opening of a student art exhibition April 24 that celebrated several people, events and projects in one gathering.
The exhibition titled “Sensitivity and Sensibility” will run through April 30 in the Academic Success Center, located on the first floor of Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library. Showcased in the new gallery space are drawings, portraits, 3D pieces and sculptures created by students in Drawing I, Design II and Advanced Sculpture classes taught by Art Professor James Borders, who orchestrated a touching tribute to his late wife that will also be housed in the library. Subjects and mediums in the exhibition reflect the diversity of individual artists in the department and the materials they use.
In addition to introducing new gallery spaces, the event provided a forum to recognize several outstanding students and announce upcoming projects and events related to the induction of sculptor and long-time faculty member Rivers Murphy into NSU’s Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame.
“’Sensitivity and Sensibility’ is the first in what will be a series of student shows that will rotate two three times each semester,” said Leslie Gruesbeck, professor of art and gallery coordinator. “Along with congratulating our students on their terrific exhibition and thanking the Academic Success Center for its outstanding promotion and encouragement of this project, we were able to reveal the first recipient of the Lisa Chesser Borders Endowed Scholarship. We also unveiled the Lisa Chesser Borders Permanent Student Art Collection, a collection that will hang in the Academic Success Center, and we began our celebration of Rivers Murphy and a special project that will pay tribute to his work this September.”
Dozens of friends of the Chesser, Borders and Murphy families attended the celebration, along with students, alumni, community supporters and colleagues of the honorees.
Maxey McSwain of Shreveport, an English and art education major, was named the first recipient of the Lisa Chesser Borders Endowed Meraki Scholarship. In presenting the award, Borders explained the concept of “meraki” in which one puts “soul, creativity and part of themselves into their work.”
“This exemplifies Lisa,” Borders said of his late wife who lost her battle with cancer last November at age 49. Lisa Borders served Natchitoches Parish as a legal assistant and judicial administrator to Judge Desiree Dyess, who described her friend’s legacy as one of strength, optimism, kindness and faith.
McSwain expressed gratitude at being named the first scholarship recipient and said that at NSU she has been pushed harder than ever to do her best work.
“I have known since I was very young that I have a strong connection with art,” McSwain said. “The staff and students in the art department make this endeavor to better myself an exciting and fun experience, and the culture of striving for progress and the comradery within the art department is incredible.”
Another component of the celebration was the unveiling of the Lisa Chesser Borders Permanent Student Art Collection in the Academic Success Center. Student work that is on display will be for sale to donors for $300 for each piece. Upon purchase, $250 will go to the student artist while $50 will support the Lisa Chesser Borders Endowment. Acknowledgement of each donor will be placed along with the piece in the permanent collection. Several pieces on exhibit had already been purchased.
In addition to honoring his wife, Borders also recognized Murphy, who taught at NSU from 1966-2004, as a mentor to him and many other artists. Murphy is a 2019 inductee into NSU’s Creative and Performing Art’s Hall of Fame and events to honor him this September will include the opening of a sculpture collection by students and alumni in the Alumni Plaza that will be ever-changing. Maquettes by alumni influenced by Murphy are included in Academic Success Center display and will be enlarged 10 times their current size. Several of Murphy’s former students were present for the announcement.
“I’ve been very blessed in so many ways. I worked my entire career at Northwestern with really talented and good people, seven presidents and exceptional students,” Murphy said, crediting the support of his family as the most important thing in life.
Gruesbeck said creating the new gallery space to showcase the student work in the new Academic Success Center began just a few weeks ago in collaboration with the Center’s personnel, art faculty and NSU’s Carpentry Shop.
“CAPA is a big part of NSU and what a great way to showcase our students’ success by displaying their work in the Academic Success Center,” said Bob Jordan, director. “Feedback has all been great. At the opening, Dr. Maggio talked about the ‘Three Cs – Contact, Collaboration and Celebration.’ That is exactly what occurred with the ASC’s art display.”
Borders closed the celebration by encouraging his students to push themselves to do their best work and follow the example of his late wife.
“If you do the work people will show up,” Borders said. “Creativity does not dwell in comfort. It’s my job and my duty to make you uncomfortable. Don’t’ be average. Lisa defined who she was every day when she went to work. She was the greatest human being I ever met in my life. I’m very proud of these students. You build tradition with effort and work, not with talk. If you want to leave a legacy, live a life worth living.”