Arlington High Art Students Get Lesson in Art, History from Memphis Artist George Hunt

Acclaimed Memphis Artist George Hunt spoke to Arlington High Visual Art Students about his experiences as an artist and art educator. Staff Photo.

Acclaimed Memphis Artist George Hunt spoke to Arlington High Visual Art Students about his experiences as an artist and art educator. Staff Photo.

On October 21, Arlington High School Visual Arts students had the opportunity to listen and learn from an acclaimed artist—Memphis painter George Hunt.

Hunt, who taught art in the Memphis City Schools for 36 years, regaled the students with a mixture of stories about his journey to becoming an artist and  aphorisms encouraging the students in their artistic development.

Hunt’s “Meet and Greet” at the school was arranged in conjunction with the RiverArtsFest held later that week in the Historic South Main Arts District in Downtown Memphis. Each year,  the festival partners professional artist with local schools, explained AHS Visual Art Teacher Leanne Wilson..

A native of Louisiana, Hunt attended high school in Hot Springs, Arkansas before  receiving a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff. He also attended graduate school at Memphis State and New York University.

Originally intending to be a coach, Hunt switched to art education in college and then taught art and coached football and track at Carver High School in Memphis.

Hunt credited Memphis State Art Professor Dick Knowles with encouraging him not to copy the style of European masters, but to “do what you do” and “paint what you like.”

“What I knew for the most part was the hood,” Hunt states, adding that he “had limited involvement with whites.” In fact, Hunt tells that he only taught two white students in his 36 years at Carver High.

Told to “paint what you know,” Hunt chose subjects from the music world he loved—although he isn’t a musician—blues players, gambling, dice, and cards.

He started to paint in his classroom after school and sports practices were over. His dedication to creating art meant that sometimes he would stay all night.

“If there is something you want to do, you will find time to do it,” Hunt told the students.

AHS_America Cares

America Cares, by George Hunt as appeared on a 2005 US Postage Stamp.

In addition to themes of music, Hunt is recognized as a leading Civil Rights artist. America Cares. an image of the Little Rock Nine he created for a memorial at Central High School in Little Rock, was selected to hang at the White House and later issued as a postage stamp as part of  a series commemorating Civil Rights.

Visual Arts Teacher Carrol McTyre describes the impact exposure to a working artist has on her students. “They see someone who is not working realistically, but has a definite style. This gives the students encouragement to push outside of what they are used to doing.”

AHS students Emily James and Emily Burraston agreed that after Hunt’s talk they were intrigued and encouraged to experiement.

Burraston, a senior at AHS who hopes to major in art education, said “I would be interested to see my style if I tried to mimic his.” James, a sophomore interested in fashion design admitted that she, too, had worried about painting anything abstract. “It’s outside of my comfort zone.”

 

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