The Arts Interviews program was created to celebrate older regional artists and educate the community about their life stories, creative work, and significant contributions to Memphis and the art world.

We produced one life story film for each of the 17 featured artists. Each DVD includes an in-depth interview with the artist, a slide show of the artist’s work, and a teacher’s guide. DVDs are available for purchase via ArtsMemphis. Call (901) 578-2787 for details. Watch this to learn more about the series.

Artists featured in THE ARTS INTERVIEWS: SERIES ONE (released 12-7-2006)

Larry Edwards was the head of the Art Department at the University of Memphis for many years. The evolution of his creative work has taken him from abstract expressionism to landscapes to surrealism, and he is best known for his surreal paintings and pastel drawings of animals and people in everyday situations gone awry, images rich with social commentary.

George Hunt is a well-known folk artist and painter inspired by Blues musicians and African American themes. His artwork has provided imagery for Memphis in May Music Heritage Festival posters for nearly twenty years. In 1996, he was selected to paint a series of 24 portraits for the Blues & Legends Hall of Fame; many of these paintings were included in his “Conjurating the Blues” exhibit, which toured the country in 2003-2004 for the Year of the Blues. His “Little Rock Nine” was made into a postage stamp, and the original painting hung in the White House during the Clinton Administration. He has taught art at Carver High School for over 35 years.

Dick Knowles, a long-time professor of art at the University of Memphis, is an abstract painter whose work is inspired by geographic aerials and other forms of nature. His past work includes paintings both figurative and surreal, including a series of portraits that studied the refractions of light on bodies in water. Founder of the art magazine Untitled, Knowles was very involved in putting together exhibitions and group shows that brought together the community of independent artists in Memphis in the 1970s.

Marjorie Liebman is the last living founder of Art Today, a group that brought contemporary art to the Memphis Brooks Museum. She was represented by Betty Parsons in the heyday of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York in the 1950s, and she counted such great artists as Ad Reinhardt, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko among her colleagues. She is best known for her abstract expressionist work, her portraiture and figurative work, and her vibrant florals.

Veda Reed, a painter of “sky events” and landscape, moved to Memphis from the plains of Oklahoma many years ago. She enrolled at the Memphis College of Art (then the Memphis Academy of Art), and after graduating, she taught there for many years and later became a trustee. Her influences include Burton Callicott, her former teacher, colleague, and close friend.

Murray Riss was invited by Ted Rust to come to Memphis to start the photography department at Memphis College of Art. His photography is in collections at the Museum of Modern Art and other revered institutions across the country and overseas. He received an NEA Individual Artist Fellowship in 1975, and lived and taught in Israel for a year. Also an accomplished painter, Riss produces photographs that reflect a painter’s sensibility of light and color. 

Ted Rust, a sculptor, was director of Memphis College of Art for 26 years, beginning in 1949. Under his leadership, the school grew significantly, became an accredited college, and moved from Adams Avenue to its current location in Overton Park. Many of his sculptures are inspired by the stories and characters of the Old Testament.

Dolph Smith, a watercolor painter, bookmaker, sculptor, and arts advocate, began the papermaking program at Memphis College of Art, where he taught for many years alongside fellow artists Veda Reed and Burton Callicott.

Mahaffey White, who grew up in Memphis, spent many years as a clothing designer in New York City before returning home with her husband to raise her children. An accomplished jewelry designer, sculptor, and photographer, she taught for many years at Southwest Tennessee Community College (formerly Shelby State), where she wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the class curricula for the art department.

Ernest Withers is famous for his photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, Negro League Baseball, and Memphis Music. His catalog includes over 12 million photographs, including many famous images – a picture of Elvis and B.B. King together – the gathering of sanitation workers during the 1968 strike in Memphis – Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his “Mountaintop” speech – among countless others.

Artists featured in THE ARTS INTERVIEWS: SERIES TWO (released 2-19-2007)

Billy Price Carroll is a native Memphian who is known for her painting, portraiture, and sculpture. She has been invited to over 47 exhibitions, and her commissions have taken her around the world. She spent 7 ½ years in Hong Kong studying Chinese ink and brush painting and calligraphy, and in 1969 she was invited by the National Taiwan Art Center in Taipei, where Madame Chiang Kai-Chek personally “praised the works of the American artist.” 

Agnes Stark began her career working in stoneware with Thorne Edwards at the Memphis College of Art. She has been prolific in her creation of functional and decorative pottery since the late 1960’s. Recipient of many awards, she was chosen as one of 250 craftsmen to represent America at the 1978 World Crafts Council in Kyoto, Japan and also in 1980 in Vienna, Austria. She founded the Memphis Association of Craft Artists, and she currently serves as president of the Memphis Potters Guild.

Steve Yee was born in China, but he came to the US when he was a boy and moved to Greenville, MS when he was 12. After graduating from Memphis College of Art, he worked in advertising and design to support his practice of fine art. His watercolors are his trademark work, and he has shared his unique painting techniques with hundreds of students. His paintings have won dozens of competitions, and he has been represented by galleries in California and Texas.

Artists featured in THE ARTS INTERVIEWS: SERIES THREE (released 10-24-2008)

Mimi Dann, a potter and ceramic artist, received her B.A. at Cornell University with a Distinction in Fine Arts, studied pottery and design at Memphis Academy of Arts, did graduate work at Arrowmont School of Crafts, and took many workshops with leading U.S. ceramicists. She has given workshops and lectures in Memphis, TN, Easton, Maryland, Vienna, Austria, and Sydney, Australia. Her work has been show across the country in over 50 exhibitions, and she has received numerous awards. She is past President of the Memphis Association of Craft Artists, past Vice-President of the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists, and a former member of the Tennessee Arts Commission Craft Advisory Committee. She also represented the U.S. at the World Crafts Councils in 1980 (Vienna), 1985 (Indonesia), and 1988 (Australia).

Jameson Jones, a watercolor artist and former chief administrator of Memphis College of Art, is well-known and highly respected for his influence on the arts world in Memphis through his service to various arts organizations and as a brilliant school administrator. While serving as Dean of Southwestern (now Rhodes College), he was active in the leadership of Art Today, a group that brought contemporary art to the Brooks Museum in the 50’s and 60’s, and he served on the board of trustees at the Memphis Academy of Arts (now Memphis College of Art), and helped to bring accreditation to that school. He later served as Associate Director and President at Memphis College of Art (beginning in 1971) and was instrumental in getting the college a Ford Foundation grant in 1977 before he retired in the early 1980’s.

Luther Hampton, an African-American sculptor known for his works in wood and stone as well as his jewelry, was honored with the Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award in 2003. A graduate of Memphis College of Art, his work has been shown in exhibits across the country, including Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his career, he has shared his passion for sculpture by demonstrating his techniques and teaching skills to both youth and adults through visiting artist programs and youth development programs.

John McIntire, a sculptor and former professor at Memphis College of Art, is known for his multi-media creations, his one-of-a-kind personality and unique style. A master at using found objects in his work, he is the king of yard sales and flea markets, and presides over multiple booths at Bojo’s Antique Mall. His influence in the art world extends beyond his abilities as a plastic artist and includes his contributions to Memphis music and literary history as well, as he once was the proprietor of The Bitter Lemon, a coffee shop that hosted bluesmen and folk artists, and lived in a house fondly called the “Beatnik Manor” where a 60’s era Allen Ginsberg once spent the night on his way through town.