By MATT CRANE
Mississippi native and internationally recognized artist William "Bill" Dunlap is reconnecting with his roots as Mississippi State University's first artist-in-residence during the spring 2013 semester.
Coordinator for the Visual Arts Center gallery Lori Neunenfeldt said Dunlap will begin working with MSU art students and community members beginning Monday with an opening reception for Dunlap's exhibit "William Dunlap: Look At It — Think About It" 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21 in the Cullis Wade Depot gallery on the MSU campus.
"We feel very honored to have Bill joining us in this capacity," she said. "For our students, Bill can give them insight into a career in the arts, teaching them invaluable lessons in all areas. He is a huge supporter of arts education and it's nice to know people are aware of what we're doing and we hope our students will be able to give back like Bill does."
Dunlap, a member of the MSU Department of Art's National Advisory Board, said he has visited the campus over the years and was approached by the current department head to come in for the artist-in-residence program.
"The very apt and intelligent Lydia Thompson had been thinking of doing this for some time and asked me to come on board," he said. "I want to reinforce with the faculty is already doing along with creating work alongside students and interacting with members of both campus and community."
Thompson said the program's aim is for students to get first hand lessons from established artists to prepare for a career or advanced study in the field of art.
"We have established the program to allow the artist-in-residence to work on special projects or techniques alongside our students, which will be an invaluable benefit to everyone," she said. "Having this kind of experience will really make a difference in a student's life."
A self-describe hypothetical realist dabbling in all aspects of visual art including photography, sculpture, painting and performance art, Dunlap said his stint as artist-in-residence will allow the department to test drive the program, making suggestions and working with raise money to create an endowment for the program for future artists.
"We're trying to figure out how this will work, and I am just an extra pair of eyes and ears, because the art and architecture departments are absolutely first rate with what they are doing," he said. "They are doing so much with what they have and they are some of most highly energized departments that I have visited in a long time."
Dunlap said he is excited about his opportunity to work with both students and community members during such a positive time in his artistic career.
"I like where I am at this point in my career and I'm making the best work of my life right now," he said. "I wanted to be an artist before I knew what one was and I feel blessed to be able to do this."
Neuenfeldt said she had the pleasure of showing Dunlap around Starkville recently, calling the exploration of the artist-in-residence fun to be figuring out such uncharted waters.
"This experience provides our art students at MSU to collaborate with an artist and experience the creative process of that artist while also getting the community involved," she said. "We envision this being an experience where the artist can create work inspired by both the city and the campus."
Neuenfeldt said the free, community events will begin 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 in the Cullis Wade Depot gallery.
"It is so great that he is going to be offering a gallery talk and tour as the community is led through the exhibit by the artist to explain in-person the details about each work," she said. "This is all happening thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Art and the Starkville Area Arts Council."
The exhibit "William Dunlap: Look At It — Think About It" will showcase several of Dunlap's paintings and constructions from 1971-1995, and Dunlap said he excited about immersing himself in the arts scene that MSU and Starkville has to offer.
"What I want to do is engage people on an aesthetic and personal level and give them something to contemplate," she said. "It's going to be one interaction after another. If I make some work, get to know some people and have some influence on the students and community, it will be a success."
A former university art instructor turned solo artist, Dunlap said he has misses the experience of interacting with students and faculty and is thrilled to join not only the team at MSU's art department, but experience campus as a whole.
"I miss the camaraderie with your peers so this is a real indulgence to be around these wonderful artists," he said. "I'm also excited about taking in all that the campus has to offer like diving in to the Grant collection at the library because that is such a delight to have something like that here. I feel like this is a great big smorgasbord and I am going to take a bite of everything."
For more information about William Dunlap and the artist-in-residence program, call Lori Neuenfeldt at 662-325-2973.