Over the past few years, Jackson has received national acclaim for its burgeoning art scene. The Fondren and Midtown neighborhoods are bustling with artistic flair and The Mississippi Museum of Art is the largest fine art museum in the State. The artists here have a unique way of displaying their talents and form a tightly-knit community that routinely supports late night gallery openings, live music, and live art shows.
Though small in size, the growing community of visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers has made a definite impact, and their influence can be seen all across the city. Artists in recent years have converted warehouses, old boarded homes, and even abandoned strip malls into recording studios and performance spaces. With that being the case, there is a growing need for a unique experience tailored towards those individuals showcasing their many abilities while interacting with the local community.
Christina McField, a Jackson native who is a multi-disciplinary artist, curator, and founder of the WoodGrain Studio, is creating those experiences. Her studio is a space for collaboration, resources, and creativity rooted in community cultivation while supporting the arts and cultural ecosystem of the state. McField, the 2021/2022 Community Impact Artist in Residence at Sipp Culture, has had a lifelong love for art. As a child, she flexed her creative muscles as a singer and would sometimes sell her drawings at her mother’s hair salon.
McField says, “Music was my first love before I gained interest in visual art. I grew up in a hair salon, so I saw people creating everyday. I didn’t go to summer camps or have art classes so I would draw while I was there. I started early with selling and being strategic with how to get my work out. I got to see how a business worked, which was operated by mother and father. My dad was a hair stylist and my mom was a business person.”
She was almost certain she would pursue a career in art, and that passion led her to attend Mississippi State University where she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree for sculpture in 2016. The former inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow, for the Mississippi Museum of Art, has quietly become one of the driving forces behind the city’s art renaissance. Her ability to combine an interactive setting for local vendors and patrons, with a stage to discuss important cultural issues, has caught the attention of art lovers and conscious thinkers alike.
“You have to think about that. When people walk into a door you have to keep them active until they leave. That’s how you really capture people’s experience,” said McField.
On Saturday, May 14, McField, along with her friend Allyson Holloway, produced the Art of Wellness event at Duling Hall. The event was designed to explore conversations about artistic expression and the role that can play in addressing mental health. Sponsored by the Higher Purpose Co., the exhibit allowed participants to experience various local Black artists’ work while communing in a safe environment where topics of community healing can be discussed.
“I’ve always wanted to produce an event like this for years,” said McField. I wrote in my journal years ago that I wanted to have a community exhibition and panel discussion where we could bring the community together for something positive. Allyson reached out and explained to me her focus was mental health and wanted to partner with me. Other than art, over the past few years I have been really diving deep into mental wellness and holistic living. Hearing her interest, I immediately started pulling my resources together to make this happen.”
An unsung hero of sorts, McField was able to bring together a Black community-based exhibition to the city. A wide variety of artists were featured, including textile artists, painters, and sculptors. A panel discussion featuring Ebony Lumumba, associate professor/department chair of English, Modern Foreign Languages, & Speech at Jackson State University; Ryan Dennis, chief curator at the MS Museum of Art; and others highlighted the night’s festivities and allowed room for sensitive subjects to be discussed, in particular the city’s ongoing crime issues which many believe ties into mental health. Being from the area, she didn’t shy away from lending her opinion on the city’s issues involving the youth and also was kind enough to share a technique that may be useful when involved in stressful situations.
McField says, “I have a journal that I keep with me. I have a journal for random thoughts, my goals, and for my art. Journaling is a way to process your thoughts, to get it out of your head. I feel as if that is one form of immediate access to do something. And of course, art! Get into writing or making things with your hands. Don’t think that you need to be an artist or have a lot of money for supplies. You can literally start with things that are around your house. That is another form, an outlet that you can put all of your anxieties and frustrations in.”
The Art of Wellness event was the official launch of her business – The WoodGrain Studio, which once again focuses on the art and cultural ecosystem that provides more spaces for all Mississippians to enjoy one another, develop an appreciation for the arts, and learn something new. As she prepares for her next big exhibition, pop-up events will be taking place until she acquires her own physical space.