New Documentary Traces Colorful (and Sometimes Controversial) History of Memphis College of Art

cover image by Leslie Krims

In our November 2009 cover story, we looked back at the crazy events that unfolded at the Memphis College of Art in the early 1970s. Some Memphians were dismayed by the school's use of nude models in its drawing classes, and then outraged when a photo exhibition featured — gasp! — photographs of naked women. Finally, one lunatic decided enough was enough, and he broke into a professor's house, kidnapped their teenage son, and threatened to kill him if the offending images weren't taken down.

Were they removed? Did the child live or die? To find out, you can either read our cover story, OR you can watch a brand-new film that explores these and other interesting events in the long history of the Memphis College of Art and its predecessor, the Memphis Art Academy.

True Story Pictures, helmed by our pal Joann Self Selvidge, has produced The Art Academy: A History of Memphis College of Art, which will premiere at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2nd, at Studio on the Square. There will be an informal reception at 6 p.m. Admission is $12. Seating is limited, and the event is expected to sell out quickly, so we encourage you to purchase your tickets in advance here.

Selvidge sums it up this way: "Probably best known for its legendary faculty and iconic architecture, MCA has some surprises up its historical sleeve — masquerade balls, celebrity visits, indoor waterfalls, even a kidnapping. The Art Academy film teases these stories out for us, using archival footage, old and new interviews, narrative animations, and an original soundtrack by Steve Selvidge and Paul Taylor."

Earlier that same day, the theater will also host an art exhibition and silent auction, from noon until 10 p.m. The exhibit features artwork created for the film, including 18 charcoal on paper illustrations — portraits of MCA’s most iconic figures — by Matt Pierson; map illustrations by Lauren Rae Holtermann; 3-D architectural animations by Ryan McGahan; and storyboards, character sketches, and animations by Kong Wee Pang and Michael Shaw. Don't miss it.

For more information, and a sneak preview of the documentary and works from the exhibition, go to

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