Most times its less about the art than it is about what inspired the art. In the case of current and past students of Morgan County High School (MCHS), the inspiration behind their art is a who.
Ty Manning, who has been teaching art at MCHS for going on 18 years, celebrated the completion of his current students’ rendition of famous Artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the High Museum by hosting what he referred to as an “Art Dog reunion” Thursday evening in his soon-to-be-demolished classroom.
“I’ve had a lot of art kids that have come through this program, so I put the word out,” Manning said. “It was open to anyone who wanted to come through to the art room one more time and sort of like an exhibit to show off (the rendition), meet parents… and it’s also a time for old art students to go back down memory lane.”
The full-room mural, painted by 60 of Manning’s current art students, took about three weeks to complete.
“We decided we’d see if we could work as a group and make it happen,” Manning beamed. “And it happened so we figured we would celebrate.”
Multiple students and their families visited the memory-filled room that is now a semblance of red polka-dotted black paint dripping down the ceilings and walls onto the old white tiled floor to enjoy creativity and reminisce with old friends.
After making small donations to the art program, many visitors took home their choice of art-covered ceiling tiles that students have illustrated over the years.
What Manning intended to be a celebration of his students’ art work and a time to rejoice over old memories turned out to be an opportunity for his students to celebrate him.
“I feel like in my case, and the case of a lot of my friends, this place was like a second home,” Class of 2017’s Isabella Scoggian said. “We were kind of like the outcasts of this school. We weren’t really in sports. We weren’t really in any other programs but Manning created an environment here that was welcoming to everybody and he gave us a space to be able to find who we are through both our art and just communicating with some good people.”
Because of his intense passion for teaching and creating art, Manning has inspired his students to flourish in the world of art and make the most of the program.
“He’s such a loving guy,” said Nick Walker, a former student in the art program. “…He was always one of those people who always had my back and he’s always been there for me. Art kind of came into my life at a young age, so it was always there but he brought it out of me.”
“Whenever you go into his class, you’re going to do something new, something that’s going to bring you out of your shell,” Sophomore Concetta Ferri said. “He’s not going to let you just forget about the assignment or not try your best. He will make you try your best. He’s the most amazing guy you’re ever going to meet. He’s funny and he’s talented.”
The Art Dog reunion gave the visitors, students, and Manning time to mourn the old and prepare their minds for the new.
“It hit me on Monday,” Manning said. “I realized this is the last week we’re going to be here… I’ve being doing this for 18 years here. It’s going to be weird going to a new place.”
Manning and his anticipating team of students are already brainstorming ways to conservatively, but creatively transform the walls of his fresh, white-walled art room in the new building.