The Museum is excited to welcome Meredith Knight as the new coordinator for studio programs. An Alabama native, Knight has experience teaching art everywhere from schools and museums to medium-security prisons, making her an insightful and valuable addition to the Education Department. We sat down with Knight during her first week at the Museum to learn more about her background and her plans for our studio classes.
Birmingham Museum of Art: How and when did you first become interested in art?
Meredith Knight: I have been interested in art and creating for as long as I can remember. As a child, I always took Saturday morning art classes. When I was in high school, a family friend taught me how to throw, carve, and create three-dimensional forms through additive processes, which helped define my interest in sculpture and ceramics. As I was finishing high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a BFA and eventually an MFA.
BMA: You have a really interesting and varied background. Can you tell us more about your experiences?
MK: As I was finishing my BFA, I knew I wanted to share my love of art and creating with others, similar to how others had shared their passion for art with me. My very first job teaching art was at a summer camp at the McDonald Hughes Center in Tuscaloosa. The camp was a program that provided creative and educational classes to K-12 students who qualified for free lunch during the summer. I fell in love with being in the classroom, demonstrating, talking through ideas with students, and helping them create their ideas. During graduate school, I co-directed the Black Belt 100 Lenses program and taught high school photography to students in twelve rural Alabama counties. This experience showed me how powerful art could be to express different perspectives about the same region. My last semester of graduate school, I began teaching at Auburn University Montgomery. I taught all levels of ceramics, sculpture, and three-dimensional design. During that time I also began teaching at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, which helped me to understand how studio programming at a museum was developed and implemented. I have always been passionate about sharing my love for art with people who want to learn, create, and collaborate, which is why I was excited to be offered an opportunity to teach art to students in prison and coordinate classes through Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project. The students in APAEP exceeded my expectations through their level of engagement in various art projects and group discussions. Again, I saw the power of art to create a wonderful sense of community while providing a healthy, creative outlet for people to express their ideas. Most recently, I have been teaching middle school art in a public school in Montgomery and I loved teaching that age group, as well. All of my experiences will definitely inform my role here at the BMA and allow me to develop programming to share my passion for art with everybody who visits our studios.
BMA: Can you explain what you will be doing in your new role?
MK: I’m the studio coordinator, so I’m reestablishing the studio programming. I’m trying to flesh out different programs. We’re going to have a winter session, summer session, and fall session, so I’m looking to find some artists and educators who want to teach, and will also provide some programming myself.
BMA: What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
MK: I really hope to bring back studio programming and make it a vibrant place where we can create an environment where people want to create and share their ideas with others.
BMA: What are you most looking forward to about working at the Museum?
MK: I think it’s going to be a really inspiring place with some great people to work with. I’m excited about being here. I think especially with Education, there are a lot of new people so it’s going to be a really exciting time to all work together and see what we can do.
BMA: Do you have a favorite gallery or work of art at the BMA yet?
MK: I have always been drawn to Barbara Hepworth’s work, ‘Two Forms in Echelon.’ Her work and sense of opening and enclosing spaces has informed my own artwork. Another favorite piece of mine is Magdalene Odundo’s Vessel, Mangbethu, 1993. It was such a treat to get to hear her talk during the first biennial Bunting Symposium while I was in graduate school. And I love Tara Donovan’s installation in Oscar’s and her transformation of styrofoam cups. I am inspired by the way she uses ubiquitous materials, which is something that I have done in my outdoor sculptures.
BMA: Do you have any studio programming ideas that you can share with us?
MK: Yes! I want to offer programming that includes different medium and themes related to the museum’s collection and exhibitions. I have a ton of ideas but I also want to include participants and community members in the brainstorming process and hear what they want. I will teach a lot of the classes, but I am also excited about bringing in local and regional artists to teach workshops and to share their processes and ideas.