Bright Future: High school artist shares the ‘gray space’ as she looks ahead

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

Seventeen-year-old Kelly Eubanks is excited about her senior showcase at Mississippi School of the Arts.

A visual arts “major,” the Brookhaven native has a few of her paintings on display in Enochs Art Gallery on MSA campus, along with those by other seniors. Among her displayed works is “Waffle House,” a painting made from a dark palette of colors on canvas, with a contrast of yellows and other bright hues. The painting is one of seven Eubanks submitted to the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.

Any SAWC submission that earns a top-tier award of a Gold Key or Silver Key advances to be displayed in the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. All seven of Eubanks’ works won Keys and were displayed at MMA.

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“It was really neat to see them hanging up there, along with the work of all the other artists,” Eubanks said.

The awards were just a portion of the many she has won, both while a student at MSA and before.

“In ninth grade (at Brookhaven High), I got first place in the Mississippi Law Day Competition,” Eubanks said. The contest was sponsored by the Mississippi Bar Association.

She was also recently inducted into MSA’s Hall of Fame. MSA teachers nominate students for induction and all students get an opportunity to vote. Along with each submitted vote, the voter must write why they chose to vote for that person.

The written reasons are read about the person before the name of each inductees is announced, so the students get to hear the encouraging opinions of their peers.

“It was really exciting to find out I’d been chosen,” Eubanks said.

Because her parents worked for Enterprise Attendance Center, it was Eubanks’ school home through eighth grade. She then transferred to BHS for ninth and 10th grades, working toward becoming an MSA student for her junior and senior years.

“I have always loved art. Any free time I had I would draw, and I always got art stuff for my birthday and Christmas,” Eubanks said. “And then the fact that there was an arts school … much less in my hometown … I tried several years to get admitted.”

The teen artist said she was always engaged creating art and never got tired of drawing or painting. She prefers the wet mediums of ink, watercolor and acrylic paints, and how they blend on paper.

After graduating in May, she plans to attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College – on nearly a full scholarship – and try to decide while there what course of art she wants to pursue. She thinks it will be illustration, or maybe making and selling her own art.

“I’m just going to experiment with classes and see what I feel drawn to,” she said.

Her family is both artistic and not, she said. Several individuals are talented – like her interior designer great-grandmother, her rodeo seamstress grandmother, author mother and drawing father – but for them it was pursued more as an interesting hobby. She’s the first to pursue it as a livelihood. Nevertheless, she was not discouraged from such a pursuit.

“I was never without support for my craft and passion from my family,” Eubanks said.

Her art has taken a purposeful emphasis on what she calls Southern Gothic, to portray authentic Southern and Mississippi culture.

“A lot of art and news stories focus on one of two extremes – the very poor and rural or the white plantation homes,” said Eubanks. “There’s not a lot in between. But Mississippi is such a diverse, pretty place and there is so much in that ‘gray space’ between the black and white.”

Though she had not been able to accomplish all she wanted to prior to the senior showcase Thursday, she knows the theme is something she will continue to work on in the future.

The goal for her artistic pursuit is not necessarily to “make it big,” but to make it work.

“I think (the goal is) having a stable income on the art I create, not necessarily having to work for someone or somewhere, but being able to create what I enjoy,” Eubanks said, “and sharing that with people.”

The MSA senior showcase will be open to the public today, 5-7:30 p.m., in Enochs Hall.