Using art to find rhythm in unbalanced world

Staff Written Community

By Trinity Martin

Staff Writer

With prior health conditions putting one of Madison’s most beloved art teachers at a higher risk for COVID-19, Tyrus J. Manning III chose to lock himself away from the world and dive into art projects. 

“It gives me something to do,” Manning said. “It takes my mind off the craziness.” 

After Morgan County High School closed and Manning was no longer needed in his art classroom, he went to spend three months with his parents in the mountains. There he created art, hosted virtual concerts from Facebook Live, and socially distanced, before coming back home to Buckhead to try and find a new rhythm of life in a changed world. 

While cleaning out his backyard one day, he found an old American flag. Being an art teacher and lover of creativity, Manning said he couldn’t throw it away. 

“I ripped it up from the ground and washed it,” he said. “Then I glued it down on one of my sheet music canvases.” 

In the art world, Manning is commonly known for his technique of painting on collages of sheet music. He continued that signature style with this project but added a little twist. 

“I started thinking about the news, and all you see are the protests and Corona, so I thought, ‘I’ll just write a bunch of 2020 junk on it.’” 

He infused the flag with words and phrases that describe the year such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Pandemic.” 

Manning also included a few personal phrases including, “I miss hugs!” and “I’m scared!” 

Manning said he wanted to “stay neutral” with the politics behind the art piece. “I just wanted to document 2020.” 

After finishing his American flag art piece, Manning was tagged in a Facebook post that included a picture of a painting he made more than 10 years ago. The painting was for sale for $7.99 in a Goodwill store near Savannah, where a woman snapped a picture, and shared it for its uniqueness. 

“Someone posted a picture saying, ‘This painting is crazy,’” Manning said. 

He described that particular painting as a “wang dang doodle,” which is an art technique that turns scribbles into shapes and objects. It was a graduation gift to one of his previous students, who had moved to the Savannah area after graduating. 

Manning said the discovery of his old painting inspired his recent project. Continuing to create political art, Manning’s most recent painting is a “wang dang doodle,” consisting of the statue of liberty wearing a mask, police and protesters disputing, and references to the political parties. Although Manning is socially distancing from the public, you can view his projects and socialize with him through his Facebook page. 

Because of his various heart conditions, Manning has kept to himself during the entirety of the pandemic. “My doctor told me not to be around a lot of people,” he said. 

Quarantine has been a big adjustment for this local art teacher and musician, who is typically surrounded by people, but Manning said he doesn’t mind keeping his distance for his own safety. 

This fall, Manning plans to be back in his classroom at Morgan County High School, teaching with correct safety and social distancing precautions and sharing his love of art with students once again. “My mental health needs it,” Manning said. “I miss everybody.” 

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