TROY’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence to promote creativity, community

Workshops, field trips and open studio hours will be offered to the public as part of the program.

Workshops, field trips and open studio hours will be offered to the public as part of the program.

Troy University’s Department of Art & Design recently launched its new Artist-in-Residence Program, welcoming Jennifer McCohnell back to the Troy Campus to help foster creativity and community beyond TROY’s physical bounds.

McCohnell is a conceptual artist and former high school English teacher who grew up in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia. While art has always been a part of her life, she decided to pursue her passion full time several years ago and began taking classes in studio art at TROY.

“I decided that I was going to pursue this artistic side to see if there was anything there or to see if I needed to keep teaching English,” she said. “I got a handle on my confidence and then I went out into the world and made art.”

Since then, she has exhibited at the Wiregrass Museum of Art, the Georgine Clarke Alabama Artists Gallery and was featured in a solo exhibition at Bells Gallery in Dothan, Alabama. She also now serves as the Program Manager of the Wallace Center for Arts and Reconciliation where she strives to “support the center’s mission by building community relationships and developing programming that will engage broad audiences.”

In the years since she attended TROY, McCohnell maintained contact with Will Jacks, Assistant Professor of Photography, and Sara Dismukes, Associate Professor of Art & Design, co-chairs of the residency program. 

Clay homes sculpted by McCohnell
Clay homes sculpted by McCohnell

“COVID pushed so many of us into isolation. As we discussed the needs of our students and community, we knew right away that we needed to rebuild a sense of togetherness,” Jacks said. “This program is designed to support regional artists by providing space, tools and time for the artist, who, in turn, work beside our faculty and students.”

During her eight-week residency, McCohnell will be able to explore different aspects of her artistry she’s not able to focus on during her regular life. With experience in multiple different mediums, including blacksmithing, painting, print making, pottery and more, one big focus for the coming weeks will be to understand herself as a sculptor, she said.

“I’ve been an artist my whole life. I’ve done a lot of different things,” she said. “When Will and Sara reached out and invited me, I thought it was just a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful affirmation of me as an artist—but it was also an opportunity for me to take my practice to the next level.”

In addition to completing projects and creating new bodies of work, McCohnell and the art department will host several free events for the community, including two workshops, two field trips and open studio hours.

“(Our department) has always been community-based with students working diligently in the department studio spaces with close guidance by our faculty,” Dismukes said. “This residency allows us to partner with artists from the local community to provide workshops and demonstrations outside the boundaries of our physical campus. We are excited to see where this pilot program leads and eager to build on it in the future.”

Despite the setbacks of the pandemic, enrollment in the Art & Design Department has grown to the largest in the department’s history, said Department Chair Greg Skaggs, proving there is a desire in people to seek out creativity. 

“We serve nearly twice as many students as we did just a few years ago,” he said. “We are a great example that our community not only values creativity, but seeks it in their studies and experiences. This residency will help us build on the energy of the last few years, and expand the ways in which we educate, communicate and connect.”

For more information about the public events, contact the Department of Art & Design at 334-670-3391 or email Dismukes or Jacks at sdismukes@troy.edu and wjacks@troy.edu.

Updates are also available via the department’s Instagram account. 

The Artist-in-Residence program is funded in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. 

McCohnell's notes and planning
McCohnell’s notes and planning
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