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What Inspires an Artist?

By Marie Schaffer, Creative Workshop Curatorial Intern

That’s the question we asked ourselves here in the Memorial Art Gallery’s Creative Workshop. Until November 15, our walls will feature the Adult Student Inspiration exhibit. We asked current and recent Creative Workshop students to submit artwork they’d made along with an explanation of what inspired them. Our goal was to show work that inspires others by being inspired.

As the Creative Workshop curatorial intern, I have found the whole experience of designing and curating this show inspiring! We have had to make a lot of decisions and work with a lot of great art. Artists were able to submit up to 3 works of art initially, but after such a great response from the students – 95 submitted artworks!– we had to find new ways to use the gallery space and we had to limit each artist to two artworks maximum. The Inspiration show features 83 artworks (we thought that was huge because last Spring’s adult student landscape showed 32 artworks!).

As we collected the artwork, I found wonderful connections tying works together. One large section is dedicated to landscapes scenes. The inspirations varied widely from traveling to far off places like Alaska and Ireland, to the streets of New York City for the Macy’s Day Parade.

Below are just a few of the artworks in this exhibit with the statements of inspiration, all the text comes directly from the artists.


Students first entering the Creative Workshop gallery from Goodman Street are welcomed by Carol Miller’s Lady in Red. This is a large scale abstracted floral piece that has a striking silver backdrop contrasted against vibrant hues of red shooting out from the base of the canvas. Her inspirational statement:


“The color red and all things floral. I abstracted the floral design to give people the rights to find their own image and thoughts.”
Carol Miller, Lady In Red, 2009

Two small songbirds purchased by Ann McSorely inspired her to create a homey nest in ceramics here at the workshop. Her inspirational statement shows off how much she enjoyed bringing her innovative ideas to an inspirational reality.

“The Birds! I purchased the birds and decided they needed a home. After talking with Paul Harp, my Creative Workshop instructor, he suggested working on a nest/home for them. The nest turned out to be a unique and fun endeavor.”
Ann McSorely, Signs of Spring, 2009

Other Inspirational statements describe specific moments in the artists’ life. See Steven Fox’s painting below and read his statement:


“I was doing some street photography in New York during the Macy’s Parade. I took some pictures at the end of the parade as the balloons were being deflated. One of the pictures struck me as ironic. Later I decided to develop this painted based on that photo.”
Steven Fox, Untitled, 2009

John Bennett for years has been working on paintings inspired by classical music. Take a close look at his work and use of oils and tape to achieve inspirational success in his work.

John Bennett BMV

This picture was inspired by a specific passage of art music, Fugues Subject BWV 542.

To understand his artwork even more, take a look at this link to hear the actual song he was inspired by– Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542 for the organ by J.S. Bach, transcribed for the piano by Franz Liszt.

This show has been inspiring in more ways than one. I have already begun preparing and collecting artwork from younger students here at the workshop to create The Children’s Inspirational Show on view November 21 to December 12. I can see the younger students becoming inspired and getting excited about the work they’re seeing from this Adult show.


Comment from Linda Huey
Time: November 3, 2009, 9:37 am

I’m writing to let you and the Gallery’s Creative Workshop students know that I will be giving a slide show called “Path of Ideas” on what inspires and influences my art during next weekend’s Fine Craft Show at the Gallery. I will be speaking in the Creative Workshop on Sunday, November 8th at 11:30 am.

Comment from Meg Colbert
Time: November 6, 2009, 11:40 am

As someone lucky enough to work in the Burne Gallery Space, I have seen everyone from 4 year olds to MAG docents walk around in awe of the student work. The inspiration the artists depict translate to the viewers of this beautiful show. It serves as a much needed reminder of the beauty of a favorite place, pet or color, but also has inspired me to think about taking a painting class!

Comment from Galih Gumilang
Time: July 12, 2011, 10:04 pm

Like above me said, the inspiration the artists depict translate to the viewers of that beautiful show. I absolutely agree with that, it has inspired me too about digital photography. I do many digital photography based on favorite place,pet or color or anything around me.

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