Cultural Arts Murfreesboro is excited to announce they have selected three Laureates, officially launching the inaugural Cultural Arts Laureate Program. Applicants were chosen from three fields within the arts: Photography, Poetry, and Painting. Every applicant was selected based on their accomplishments within their field and their proposal for engaging the Murfreesboro community with their expertise. The three Laureates appointed for the first 2017 – 2018 term are: Jessica Nelson- Photography Laureate, Kory Wells – Poetry Laureate, and Ginny Togrye – Painter Laureate.
This program is a distinguished honor for local artists, giving the chosen recipients the opportunity to educate, engage, and represent the community in their field of expertise. For their commitment to their craft and the City of Murfreesboro, the selected applicants are given the Laureate title, administrative support for projects undertaken during their term, and a $500 honorarium. A Laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field, is officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, and is expected to create art in their medium for special events and occasions while carrying out actions to engage their community.
All three Laureates are residents of Murfreesboro, TN, and feel connected to the growth they have experienced with the City of Murfreesboro throughout its development. “I like to think I’ve grown up with Murfreesboro,” explains Poet Laureate, Kory Wells, “I thought I was leaving for the big city any minute, but as the years went by, I realized the city was coming to me, and I was happy to build a life and raise my own family here.” Wells’ first collection of poems, Heaven was the Moon, was strongly inspired by living in Murfreesboro and the way it continues to change, inspiring her to constantly fine-tune her perspective. Wells states she believes in the power of poetry and that it is for everyone. It was this belief that motivated her in the summer of 2016 to found Poetry in the Boro – a monthly reading and open mic event, with the help of Allison Boyd Justus and Denise Wilson. “I’ve realized that enthusiasm for poetry in our community is present and growing and attracting a diverse group of people,” Wells states, “I want to nurture that enthusiasm.” Being selected as the first Poet Laureate has granted her a sense of completion to her transition from her day job as software developer to full-time poet. She hopes her community outreach during her term as Laureate will teach others that “poetry is a meaningful way to slow down, if only for a short while, and observe, explore, and empathize.” She recognizes that not everyone may be a fan of poetry, but she hopes with the right poem they can be converted.
Photography Laureate, Jessica Nelson moved to Murfreesboro in early 2014. She hopes to focus her community outreach on educating kids about photography. “I believe that when kids grow up with an appreciation for art they gain a new perspective on the world around them,” she explains, “Many people I’ve known feel like they don’t understand art or feel like they need a specific education to be able to enjoy art. This is disappointing because I truly believe art can enrich everyone’s experience. If kids become comfortable with art early on, they gain access to an important and useful tool for expression and communication.”
Painter Laureate Ginny Togrye moved to Murfreesboro from Louisville, KY as a teen, and graduated from MTSU with a bachelor of science with a minor in sculpture, later returning to complete classes in painting and figure drawing. Her particular style of painting is known as Sculptural Painting. This style is reminiscent of friezes produced by old masters such as, Michelangelo. “Sculptural painting is visually dynamic and textural,” she explains, “It is meant to be touched. I have had a lifelong passion for art and its creation is a euphoric transporting experience. My hope is to convey this passion and joy to my audience.”
All three laureates will be asked to create a collaborative work of art for the city. Ginny Togrye states, “If the laureates together can make even some small revolution in the art world in Murfreesboro, we can change some lives, including our own. You have not reached success until you have the opportunity to return to others some of the gifts you were given.”
They are each hopeful for what this program could mean for the future of the Arts in Murfreesboro. “Over the past couple of years, I realized I had to go outside of my community to find the kind of engagement I needed as an artist, “states Togrye, “This fact is hard to understand because we have such a wealth of artists here and at the university.” Nelson hopes the Laureate Program could be part of the solution. “I hope that the Laureate Program will affect our community by bringing art more frequently into the spotlight, by showing art as a tool to communicate experiences and issues that may otherwise go unexamined, and by inspiring creativity and compassion overall.” Wells is also optimistic about the future of the arts in our city, stating, “I envision a Murfreesboro that’s well-known in the state and beyond for its expression and support of all types of artists and art.”
The three Laureates will begin their term on July 1, 2017, and will continue to represent creatives in Murfreesboro through June 3, 2018, when they will hand their positions to the next selected honorees. During their year they will individually work on pieces within their field inspired by Murfreesboro, create a collaborative piece together, carrying out various projects to bring their craft to under-served communities in the city, and participate in city events such as ribbon cuttings and other public projects.
Wells, Nelson, and Togrye are the first to accept this position offered by Cultural Arts Murfreesboro, a division of Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation – City of Murfreesboro. Cultural Arts Murfreesboro is committed to making our city known for its unique creative culture and through this program seeks to act as a champion for our established artists by matching their dreams with opportunities within their own community.