Manayunk Roxborough Art Center has many wonderful members that voluntarily contribute to the success of the center. MRAC’s Esther Griffin talks with members about their careers as an artist/writer and their role at the Art Center. Next up is Ronald Howard. Howard’s second life as an emerging artist began over 10 years ago when he retired from his first life of service to Rev. Leon H. Sullivan and the global OIC skills training movement that spread to over 20 countries around the world. Howard began his art training at the Fleisher Art Memorial and has enjoyed classes from several gifted artists since. He currently serves as the president of the MRAC.
What is your role as president of the MRAC?
As president of a non-profit, all-volunteer art cooperative, my role is to make it all work. That means: selecting, recruiting and training people to fill key leadership roles needed to ensure the success of our three main programs - art exhibitions, humanities programs and classes for all ages from youth to seniors. It means the development of strategic and annual work plans that serve as benchmarks for measuring progress. It means working together with selected local partners and maintaining and growing the membership base of the art center. An important job – along with the treasurer and the rest of the board – is also ensuring that financial support is secured to keep the art center operating with effectiveness and efficiency.
Who are the members of the MRAC? What sort of atmosphere do you think they create at the MRAC?
MRAC members represent a diverse mixture of people. There are two main groups of members of our art center - visual artists and writer/poets. Sixty percent of our current membership are visual artists working in diverse mediums - graphite, ink, oil, watercolor, acrylics, photography, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, etc. Most are young to middle aged emerging artists, who work full-time jobs/careers to support themselves. There are also several well established and respected artists within our ranks. The visual artists gather at the monthly art exhibition openings offered by the center. The other forty percent of the art center members are writer/poets who also gather in homage to the written word for monthly humanities programs, poetry critique circles, and periodic writing workshops. Art and Humanities events are scheduled together at each exhibition opening reception to encourage interactions among all members. The atmosphere is very informal and welcoming.
Who does MRAC collaborate with? And do you see more partnerships in the future?
Active partnerships are underway between MRAC and the Roxborough Development Corporation (RDC ) / RoxArt Gallery - MRAC art exhibition sharing; and Journey’s Way (MRAC art classes for seniors). New initiatives are underway with the Manayunk Development Corporation (MDC) and the Summit Park Apartment Community. We are active participants with the Arts and Business Council, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. We intend to expand future collaborative ventures to organizations and groups active in the Roxborough and Manayunk neighborhoods of the city and we welcome ambassadors that are willing to support our Art Center in any way possible, whether that is by helping us with fundraising, making new introductions or promoting our events.
What has been your favorite event at MRAC so far?
My favorite event at MRAC is the annual December Ekphrastic Art Exhibition. As a final show in the calendar year, we strive to bring together both arms of our membership (visual artists and writer/poets) in a collaborative art exhibition which features poetry written in response to visual artworks. The writers are allowed time to read their poems, along with projected images of their visual artwork muse. The event also serves as a year-end holiday party for the full MRAC membership and their partners.
What makes MRAC special?
The juxtaposition of visual artists together with writer/poets as the membership base for the art center provides the dynamic that makes MRAC unique. The on-going monthly focused attention to the needs and interests of these two groups helps to explain why the 2018 Classic Towns awards designated MRAC as the best art gallery/workshop for both Roxborough and Manayunk.
You are also an artist and poet yourself. Can you tell a bit more about your work?
My personal creative interests include drawing, painting, photography and poetry. MRAC provides an ideal outlet for producing and displaying my artwork in each of these areas. Recent art classes at MRAC focused on fundamentals of portraiture have inspired an important new set of skills and a stream of graphite portraits of which I am proud.
Are there any projects you have on your wish list as an artist?
My wish list of projects includes drawing portraits of as many of my family members as possible, continuing to paint watercolor portraits based on the oil portraits of Oswaldo Guayasamin, and taking classes to learn the art of sculpting.
To contact Ron directly, email email@example.com
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