Fine Arts Students Learn About Welty at Wiljax Gallery in Cleveland
Coahoma Community College’s Fine Arts students were treated to a glimpse into the past of acclaimed author and photographer Eudora Welty on a recent trip to the Wiljax Gallery in Cleveland, MS. The exhibit featured about 40 of the author and photographer’s photos from the 1930’s and 40’s and consisted of the people that Welty photographed in rural and urban settings.
The students were amazed t the photographs, by were even more impressed by the educations and background information given to them by Wiljax Gallery owner, Will H. Jacks.
All of the photos were self-printed by Welty in a very intrinsic dark room located in her kitchen. Just one of the tidbits of information the students picked up during their visit.
“(Jacks) was so knowledgeable, he helped me to paint a better picture about (Welty) and how she conducted herself,” said Jeremiah Brown, a sophomore from Clarksdale. “She was so passionate about what she was doing and the work spoke volumes about her. It was amazing how colorful and sharp her photos were and mind-blowing that she did it so long ago before all of the tricks and gadgets like Photoshop that are used today.”
Jacks also showed the CCC students a collection of old cameras during the visit, some of which were like the ones Welty used during the time the photos were taken.
“It’s amazing that those little cameras could produce stunning photos like that,” said Alexis Malone, a sophomore from Cleveland, MS. “And, all of the photos were taken near Mississippi.”
Welty of course was standing outside the norm in a time in the early 1900s when many of her friends, as well as her family, didn’t like the fact that she was concentrating on taking photos of African Americans and trying to enlighten about their culture.
“Her subject matter wasn’t what was popular back then, with segregation and everything that was going on, but she wanted to expose a different culture, the African American culture, and that was pretty awesome,” Brown said. “And with her writing, she subtly hinted about herself when she wrote, she drew upon her own life experiences – and that was another thing that a learned during the visit, from the guy giving the tour, that she drew inspiration from many of her own experiences.”
“You can learn about in class, and you can talk about it, but as my pastor says, ‘A fate that hasn’t been tested, can’t be trusted,’ and I actually got to go and see her work first hand. So now when I talk to others about her work, I will be talking from my own experiences, and I can pass what I’ve seen along.”
The students also went to Delta State University on their trip to get a glimpse of DSU’s Fine Arts Department. Malone was impressed with DSU’s gallery as well.
“That was my favorite part, getting to see all of the art exhibited at Delta State’s gallery,” said Malone. “I really like to see works from other artists, and the gallery there was a lot of fun.”