After the successes of her previous two albums, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” and “By the Way, I Forgive You,” folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile has accumulated critical acclaim once again with the recent release of her seventh studio album, “In These Silent Days.”
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After three postponements due to COVID-19, Macon’s massive, beloved book sale returns next Thursday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 24.
Hardman Hall's Plunkett Gallery opened with its first exhibition of the year, titled “Summer Salon,” Sept. 17.
Macon Pride celebrated its first Pride parade in almost 20 years in 2019. After pausing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride returns this year with a multi-day lineup of events.
Two Mercer University religion professors will speak at a Storytellers Macon event Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Grant’s Lounge.
To be neurodivergent is to be neurodevelopmentally different, or to have a brain that is structured differently from the “typical” person’s. According to Health Assured, the neurodivergent brain “functions, learns and processes information differently than others.”
By now, you’ve moved into your dorm, and you’ve probably done some minor engineering to make your space functional and cute — a Command hook by the door for your keys, a photo wall to remember all your friends and family back home, a corkboard to display your jewelry.But if you really want to make your dorm uniquely yours as well as a fun place for your friends to hang out, read on for some zesty ideas!Beaded CurtainsMy roommate and I bought one mega bucket of beads and a reel of fishing wire from Walmart, which made 21 bead strands that cover half of our three living room windows.We strung them at random, intentionally not instituting any patterns in the bead arrangement, so each strand is unique. We also embedded little secret messages in some of the strands using letter beads.When the sun shines just right, tiny rainbows are reflected on our living room wall.This may be the most meticulous craft on this list, as it took several hours to complete all the strands — and likely many more if we’d done the whole length of the windows — but the beaded curtains are my favorite thing in our living room right now.GarlandsOn the topic of stringed things, garlands are a personal, versatile touch to any living space. In a corner of my own room, I have a garland of origami butterflies and stars folded out of old book pages. I’ve also made a couple strings of rainbow origami cranes for my best friend and origami frogs for my girlfriend.If origami isn’t your thing, there are tons of other items you can attach to a garland.Picture dried oranges brightening up your kitchen area, or a wreath of dried flowers dangling above your bed, or your favorite crystals hanging over your dorm’s entrance.Don’t forget that flat items attached to walls aren’t the only way you can liven up your living space!Clay MagnetsThis is a great, affordable activity for a couple of evenings with your friends.My friends and I used air-dry clay, a package of small, circular magnets and acrylic paint to complete this project. Then, we got to work! We shaped snails, frogs, fairies and mushrooms out of our clay — let your imagination guide your hands!While the clay was still moldable, we embedded the magnets into the backs of our creations so we would not have to glue magnets on later.The next night, after the clay completely dried, we got together again and painted them.Our magnets do look cute up there on our fridges, but truly the best part is that we swapped our little creations amongst each other. Now I can smile at my friends’ art when I’m reaching into the fridge!Vinyl BowlThis one is a little more complicated because you need an oven, but if you or a friend lives in one of the dorms with a full kitchen, then it’s a pretty simple and funky DIY.It’s easier to explain with visuals, so I’ve linked the tutorial I followed.In the end, you’ll have a retro bowl you can stick by the door as a catch-all, or you can pull it out and fill it with snacks for a themed party!Smartphone ProjectorThis is also a more complex project, so check out the link for instructions.Once you start, though, you’ll find that you probably already have all the items you need except a magnifying glass. And once you finish, you’ll have a groovy smartphone projector you can use for movies or photo shoots with friends.Happy crafting!
When you are packing for college, you have your list of essentials and non-essentials. And then you have your hidden third list — your essential non-essentials. These items aren’t necessarily as critical as shirts and body wash, but they sure do make acclimating to college much easier. Ottoman At Mercer, there are dorms like Legacy, where you’d have to be an Olympic pole-vaulter to get on the tall bed smoothly. Or, you might live in Plunkett, where every inch of floor space matters, so you put your bed as high as it can go to fit items underneath. Either way, getting to sleep can be more difficult than you anticipated. A storage ottoman is a great investment, as it helps you step into bed while keeping some of your items stored away. Bedside storage caddy Along with getting into bed, putting things like your phone or diary beside the bed is a challenge when the dresser is miles below you. Having a bedside storage caddy was an immense benefit to me. Bonus: when I was already oh-so-comfy in bed, I could just drop my book next to me instead of getting up to put it away at night! HDMI cord It’s a problem as old as modern technology has been at college: one roommate has a subscription to a streaming service, the other brought a television and both want to watch a show while they eat. Neither of them brought an HDMI cord. Save the disappointment later and make the trip to the store now. Ethernet cable With so many students all using the Wi-Fi at once for texting, video games, TV and sometimes homework, the network is bound to slow down. An Ethernet cable ensures that you’re getting the highest-speed connection you can. Mini garment steamer I considered my freshman year roommate a genius and a lifesaver when she pulled the garment steamer out of her suitcase. Living in cramped quarters and having to fold most of my clothes into the dressers meant that they were bound to get wrinkled, and I couldn’t run a dryer every time I needed a fresh shirt. It was an easy addition to my morning routine. Foldable drying rack Something that has been on my dorm wishlist forever is a drying rack. Many people start washing their own laundry for the first time when they move away to college, and they realize — sometimes too late — that not everything can handle a drying cycle. However, strewing clothes about your dorm to dry can make moving around inconvenient for you and your roommate. A drying rack will keep everything safe, clean and out of the way. Plus, when you are done using it, it collapses for easy storage. Stain remover stick Speaking of cleanliness, your clothes probably won’t be spotless after every meal. But sometimes, you’re in a rush to class, or all the washing machines are taken. A stain remover stick is a quick fix in a pinch. Sewing kit When you’re on a tight college student budget, you can’t always afford to throw out something just because it has a hole or rip or doesn’t fit quite right. A sewing kit is a simple and sustainable solution to small clothing malfunctions. House slippers Shoes can be such a bother to put on and off, especially if you’re just doing a quick task like visiting your hall neighbor or switching your laundry. Slide-on shoes are a simple luxury you’ll thank me for later. Coffee maker Of course, having a small coffee maker will save the caffeine-addicted college student money they’d be spending in a cafe, but it can also be used to cook small meals like ramen and macaroni and cheese. Tupperware containers In my four years here at Mercer, one thing that has surprised me is the number of people who don’t have plastic food storage containers. Every year, friends ask to borrow my Tupperware sets to put away leftovers for later, and I don’t blame them — they’re definitely one of the handiest items I own, and I recommend you do, too!
A long day of moving and unpacking is sure to work up an appetite. Check out the following restaurants for a bite to recharge before the new school year starts. Chico & Chang A staple of any good Mercer Bear’s diet, Chico & Chang is a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant serving up superb dishes from both cultures. They are friendly to a college student’s budget, and my personal go-to spot for bubble tea. I RECOMMEND: Beef Bibimbap CALL: (478) 477-1688 ADDRESS: 3850 Riverside Dr. H&H Restaurant H&H is one of Macon's claims to fame, and for good reason. Their delicious soul food kept the Allman Brothers Band well-fed while they were on their way to becoming stars of Southern rock. They also make the best waffles I have ever put in my mouth. I RECOMMEND: Fruit & Waffle CALL: (478) 621-7044 ADDRESS: 807 Forsyth St. Ricky’s Tacos What started as a taco truck is now a well-loved taco shop in downtown Macon. The burritos are huge, the tacos are mouth-watering and the street corn takes me back to celebrating Fiesta back home in San Antonio. What’s not to love? I RECOMMEND: Chorizo Taco CALL: (478) 200-4476 ADDRESS: 518 Cherry St. LaDDa Bistro My love affair with Thai food is well-documented and many years in the making, so it’s not surprising to find me eating lunch at LaDDa Bistro. It doesn’t get more refreshing than a glass of Thai tea on a hot Georgia day. I RECOMMEND: Pad Si Eew CALL: (478) 812-8138 ADDRESS: 442 Cherry St. Roly Poly Sandwiches Roly Poly might be a small chain restaurant, not necessarily unique to Macon, but it’s too good not to put on this list. There are literally dozens of hot and cold sandwiches to choose from, not to mention soups, salads and the option to roll your own sandwich. I RECOMMEND: Cobb Salad Roll CALL: (478) 745-7659 ADDRESS: 624 New St. Southern Vegan Soul Cafe As the only fully vegan restaurant in Macon, Southern Vegan Soul Cafe provides customers with healthy, scrumptious dishes as well as entertainment — don’t miss their Saturday Open Mic Nights. I RECOMMEND: Pulled BBQ Taco CALL: (478) 254-0816 ADDRESS: 3348 Vineville Ave. Savannah Duringer provided graphics for this article. This article was updated Monday, Aug. 30 to include phone numbers and addresses for each location.
Whether it’s your first year at Mercer or you’re returning after a summer away, you should know about Macon’s thriving arts scene — and the many ways you can get involved. It would be a misfortune for film buffs to miss Macon’s annual Film Festival taking place this weekend from Aug. 19 through Aug. 22. The festival features dozens of independent and immersive films on every topic imaginable, from a series of LGBTQ narrative shorts to a documentary about boxing in a small town in Texas. Take a look at the schedule and design your own movie-watching weekend of fun! Music lovers, don’t fret: Macon welcomes the return of live concerts with several of its own musical events. JBA and Grant’s Lounge are always hopping with local entertainment, typically favoring jazz and rock. On Aug. 29, the Douglass Theatre will hold its free Jazz In The Courtyard event. And right here at home, the McDuffie Center for Strings will perform its Labor Day Festival on Sept. 6. If you’re in the mood for an afternoon stroll, look no further than one of Macon’s several art museums. The Tubman Museum just downtown is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to preserving the art, history and culture of African Americans. Upcoming is their Tubman Talk Series: Aug. 20, Kizito Kalima, Founder and Director of the Peace Center for Forgiveness and Reconciliation and survivor of the Rwandan genocide, will share his story with the Macon public. The following week, Aug. 26, the McEachern Art Center opens up its new exhibition by Jim Roche, who captures the politics and attitudes of contemporary Southern culture. A short drive will bring you to the Museum of Arts and Sciences. Both subjects under one roof mean that there are an abundance of events to participate in, including a planetarium, a mini zoo and both permanent and cycling art collections. Right now, you can view Marian Zielinkski’s “Providence Canyon Art Quilts,” “Africa’s Great Migration” captured by Robert Edenfield and George Youmans, Jr., “Glass and Light” by Jenn Shifflet and the museum’s annual emerging artists series.
Due to the attached Mercer School of Medicine and the outstanding reputation of the engineering department, it is unsurprising that a large percentage of the undergraduate student body at Mercer University studies in STEM fields.What may come as more of a surprise is that there is another powerful major gaining traction on Mercer’s campus — creative writing.Out of the over 4,000 colleges and universities that populate the U.S.’s education landscape, only approximately 125 offer creative writing as a degree option.Not only is Mercer one of the few institutions to teach creative writing, but it also does quite well for itself: though a small department, it has been home to such acclaimed instructors as Chelsea Rathburn, Poet Laureate of Georgia; James May, recent National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant recipient and Anya Silver, 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.The creative writing major falls within the English department. The most critical difference between English and creative writing is that the former heavily concentrates on the study of literature, like “African American Poetry: Harlem Renaissance to the Present” or “Contemporary Drama,” whereas the latter balances those studies with writing application through workshop-style courses including “Writing the Long Story” or “Writing Lyric Poetry.”Workshops give creative writing students like alum Ranha Beak to receive consistent and constructive criticism on their work from their peers and professors so that they are constantly evolving as writers over the course of their years at Mercer.“I could ask someone for a piece of honest feedback, and we'd sit for hours in Willingham just to talk about a specific character or plot holes,” Beak said. “I appreciate the people I've had classes with for opening my world up to see the good in the mistakes and to embrace the growing pains.”Beak participated in the fiction track, but Mercer’s creative writing students can also choose to pursue comprehensive tracks in poetry and drama.Alum Elizabeth Tammi, like Beak, also found herself drawn to fiction because, she said, “Whether it's a standalone novel or a book series, I think long-form fiction really allows readers to experience and connect with different perspectives for an extended period of time. It's honestly magic to me!”On the other end, alum Charlie Marrs-Mier studied poetry, and she continues to carve space for poetry in her life beyond Mercer.“I write poetry every morning before everybody else wakes up (thanks to Dr. Johnston for that habit!) and it really serves as a therapeutic outlet,” said Marrs-Miers.In fact, in spite of the longstanding claim that majoring in English is fruitless outside of college, all three alumni find themselves actively applying their creative writing degrees in their lives now: Beak is a digital content writer at an edu-tech startup company, and Tammi has published two novels (“Outrun the Wind” and “The Weight of a Soul”) and works in astrophysics communications with NASA.“If you're considering this major, know that you'll be in wildly capable hands, but that writing – like with any creative field – still requires a healthy degree of self-starter energy,” Tammi said. “Be willing to ask questions and ask for feedback, and seek out the opportunities you want.”Fortunately, such opportunities are plentiful.To get a taste of what writing-related career students may be interested in pursuing in the future, Mercer lends several opportunities for exploration, including positions with The Dulcimer, Mercer’s literary arts magazine, and The Cluster, Mercer’s student-run newspaper; writing tutoring at the ARC or within Macon-Bibb county schools; writing precepting within INT and Great Books courses; interning at Mercer University Press or other local Macon publications; Point B.L.A.N.K., the spoken word club; and membership in Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society.Built into the degree plan is the Ferrol Sams, Jr. Distinguished Chair of English Seminar, where students are taught by accomplished visiting writers in poetry, fiction or drama. Mercer is also a member of the Georgia Poetry Circuit, so Mercer students have gotten to meet with writers as distinguished as Victoria Chang and Joy Harjo.There is also much flexibility with the creative writing degree, so many students choose to double-major and dive just as deeply into their other passions, like Tammi, who also studied journalism and served as The Cluster's Arts & Entertainment and News Editor during her time as a student.Needless to say, Mercer boasts a multitude of ways to get involved with creative writing within and beyond the classroom.“For someone afraid to dip their toes into Creative Writing, I would say jump. Do it,” said Beak. “There are only a few precious chances in the world, much less in college academia, that will make you realize so many multitudes within yourself.”However, perhaps the most important aspect of the creative writing program that each alum vouched for was the personal growth afforded.“A lot of the skills I learned were more wide life-type skills like listening and mindfulness,” Marrs-Miers said. “I use those skills every day to better myself as a person.”With the stigma surrounding creative career fields, it is understandable that a student who is interested — even gifted — in writing may be afraid to follow it as a serious career path. But, as these alumni and the Mercer creative writing department overall demonstrate, the risk might just prove to be worth it.
National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Each year, the month seeks to encourage the reading, writing, education and support of poetry. People of any skill level — whether you write poetry yourself, enjoy reading the art form or don’t know the difference between assonance and alliteration — can celebrate poetry this month and all year by participating in the myriad of virtual events described below. All of the events are free and open to the public via Zoom, though a donation from viewers is recommended in order to continue the livelihood of poetry. Cave Canem Poets Proudly self-described as “a home for Black poetry,” Cave Canem was founded in 1996 by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady “to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape,” according to its mission and history. They have grown exponentially from a grassroots organization into a nationally recognized force that hosts, educates and inspires hundreds of poets every year. They host monthly, wide-ranging events, including workshops, roundtable talks, readings and festivals. Events for April included the All that You Touch / You Change Poetry Festival April 7 and a birthday reading celebrating Toi Derricotte April 10. COUPLET Reading Series Hosted by poet Leah Umansky, the COUPLET Reading Series is a quarterly event that features readings by both up-and-coming and renowned poets. This month’s edition will be live on April 24 and is in celebration of National Poetry Month. It includes work by Martha Collins, Laura Cronk, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Nathan McClain, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers. Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance While MWPA primarily serves the literary scene of Maine, the online events are open so that anyone can join — and in terms of events, there are many to choose between, from readings and talks to writer workshops. April’s events included ARTWORD, an exploration of the relationship between visual and literary arts, on April 13 and 21 and a conversation between poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Stuart Kestenbaum on April 15. Nuyorican Poets Cafe Based in New York City, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe “champions the use of poetry, jazz, theater, hip-hop and spoken word as means of social empowerment for minority and underprivileged artists,” according to its website. It is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and has been endorsed by Beats poet Allen Ginsberg. Its calendar boasts frequent open mics and poetry slams in addition to activities related to hip hop, theater and education. The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University SFSU’s Poetry Center shows about 30 poetry-centered performances, readings and conversations each year, going back to 1954. They have carefully archived these events so that thousands of hours of past poetry are still accessible today. Recent readings included the Mazda Writer in Residence April 7 and 8 and about the intersection of the environment and poetry on April 17. The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona University of Arizona’s Poetry Center serves to enrich the literary scene in Tucson, but it has also become a prominent center for Southwestern American poetry overall with its expansive collection of contemporary poetry. Exhibitions, readings and lectures are all available for online viewing. Poet Leslie Marmon Silko performed a reading on April 13, and The Book Objects exhibition will take place through June. Poets in Pajamas A bi-monthly event where a poet is selected to read and engage with the audience every other Sunday, PiP showcases a diverse range of writers, most of whom are fresh, new voices to the literary field. Poet S. Brook Corfman gave a reading on April 11, and Brody Parrish Craig will read on April 25. The Poetry Project Since the 1960s, the Poetry Project has strongly believed in poetry as a force for change and “has expanded access to literature, education, and opportunities for sharing one's creative work in a counter-hierarchical, radically open space and community,” according to its website. It achieves its mission through readings, lectures, workshops and other events. Readings in early April included Martha King and Margaret Randall April 7 and Trevor Ketner and Justin Phillip Reed April 8. Segue Reading Series The Segue Reading Series is supported by the Segue Foundation, which “has been serving the community as a multi-service arts organization since 1977,” so written on its home page. It played a critical role in the Language poetry movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now, it hosts weekly readings in the fall, winter and spring months. April poets included Will Alexander and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge on the 10th and Brenda Iijima and Simone White on the 17th. BONUS: For more specific poetry events you should support this April, check out the 22nd Annual NYC Teen Poetry Slam, which streamed on April 10; the NOLA Poetry Festival, which has an activity planned every day this month; the O, Miami Poetry Festival, which is full of workshops and readings you can attend and the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers' Series, hosted by San Diego State University, which has two remaining readings scheduled through April.
For Mercer sophomore Kennedy Rayford, “art is something that comes from you that you’re proud of,” and, in Rayford’s case, she’s creating a lot of art. On top of majoring in psychology on the pre-med track, Rayford is multitalented: she dances, acts, plays multiple instruments and writes poetry. Dancing was Rayford’s first love. She took ballet, tap and jazz classes when she was younger, but since the age of seven, she has been mostly self-taught, with some ballet techniques sprinkled in. Though Rayford has always loved dancing, she said she has struggled in the past to be so open about her passion. “When people would kind of make jokes about me dancing all the time, it would really make me want to suppress it. It would make me feel insecure about my art to the point where actually I almost stopped dancing,” said Rayford, recalling her middle and high school days. “And so, also, I’m already an outcast in my family because everyone sings, and I don’t sing.” Coming to college made Rayford into a blank slate. Mercer was a place where no one knew who she was or what she could do, and she found that she could define herself instead of being defined by others holding onto preconceived notions of her—and she is grateful for the fresh start. “If I didn’t dance, I don’t know who I would be because I was a dancer and actress before I was a musician. I was a dancer and actress before I would necessarily call myself a poet. Like, this is who I’ve been forever,” said Rayford. Rayford credits much of her inspiration for dance to Michael Jackson, and she frequently creates choreography to his songs, such as she did during the spring 2021 Z-Beats. She also cites James Brown, the Les Twins and Chris Brown as her muses for dance. In fact, much of Rayford’s joy for dancing sprouts from the music she listens to, which is wide-ranging and compiled onto playlists that are rarely under ten hours long. Rayford’s love of dance has grown even beyond herself. In addition to progressing her own style, she teaches choreography to a hip hop group at Mercer. They hope to begin performing for audiences next year, should COVID-19 conditions improve. In addition to dancing, Rayford plays the piano and drums. She played percussion in the marching band; specifically, she learned the timpani. She also became familiarized with the key placements on the marimba and xylophone and the rhythm of the snare, all of which she found to be similar to the piano. “I think I was meant to play the piano,” said Rayford. “I didn’t need to look up where to put my fingers or how, because there are certain placements that you have to have for the piano in order to make it look right. I just knew where to put my hands.” So, in the past two years, Rayford has smoothly translated her knowledge of percussion into playing the piano. “The reason I picked up piano is because I was like, ‘I want to be able to play the piano for my wife one day,’” said Rayford. Rayford’s tendency towards romance is likewise reflected in her start in poetry. She said she has been writing creatively since she first learned how to wield a pencil, but the first written work she remembers making was when she was five or six years old. She described a leather journal her mother gifted her that was leather-bound with roses carved into the cover and gold-edged pages. “I remember when she got it, I was writing, like, love songs about my first grade crush,” said Rayford. “Always relates back to love. Always.” Since then, Rayford has written song lyrics, performed in poetry slams and been recognized by Mercer University for a poem she wrote for Black History Month. Subjects that Rayford finds herself returning to in her poetry are her dreams and her emotions. While the dominating feeling Rayford explores is love, she also enjoys writing about “whatever intense emotion I’m feeling, so maybe, like, being angry, being upset, being misunderstood.” As emotional as it is for Rayford to write poetry, she expects it to be read with the same intensity. “You should leave that poem being scarred,” said Rayford. Love is the thread that connects Rayford’s diverse artistic interests: love of others, love of craft and love of the power held within her own two hands.
Review: Amy McCullough unearths the connections between clay-making and life in new Plunkett Gallery exhibit
Amy McCullough has been an artist for over two decades, specializing in large-scale ceramic sculpture. She sculpted the magnolia pod finials that crown the brick columns at the entrance of Tattnall Square Park. She has also instructed Mercer students in her craft and owns Macon Clay downtown, where she hosts classes and workshops as well as has her own studio. Now, you can view McCullough’s work for yourself at the Plunkett Gallery in Hardman Hall in an exhibit called “UnEarthed,” which is on display through Apr. 16. The bulk of the work featured in “UnEarthed” was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. In their abstractness, the pieces reflect the collision of negative feelings like anxiety and fear with the glimmers of light that have risen from community bonding and renewed appreciation for life. Even the creation of the clay pieces parallels the events of the pandemic, for McCullough incorporated elements of control and chaos. “Pieces were created and then manipulated and reassembled into a new form, always surpassing the original intention,” McCullough said in her artist’s statement. “This is our responsibility as humans, now and moving forward.” As the viewer moves through the gallery, they take in the range of McCullough’s artistic skill and vision. To the immediate left of the door are small, round, stoneware sculptures, concave in the middle and filled with slick, dark glass. There’s a large stone bowl, bulging with protruding spheres, and a couple of long, slim stone pieces that resemble the skulls of some long-nosed creature. In the back of the gallery is an alternating order of mask-like sculptures hung on the wall and between them, pedestals hoisting heavy, intricately carved ceramic works. Surrounding these highlights are several other pieces McCullough has included for this exhibit. All of these works are organic in color and in shape, and to walk amongst them is to wander into a version of Earth that is handmade. Take a trip through McCullough’s world before the exhibit closes Friday.
We live in the digital age. It is rare to come across someone who doesn’t have some form of social media. While apps like Instagram and Twitter can be useful for keeping us in touch with our loved ones, they are also notoriously breeding grounds for insecurity as we compare ourselves to the highlights of others’ lives. I confess that I have struggled with a dependence on social media. In the past, I have found myself sharing private information online or self-sabotaging my happiness by seeking out content that makes me feel worthless. Though I—along with many others—have used social media in harmful ways, I comprehend, too, the good that it can bring. I wondered—how can I return to appreciating the Internet as a tool instead of a weapon? In response to that inquiry, I logged off for a week. At first, it was difficult. I didn’t realize how much of my free time I spent scrolling mindlessly through an online “feed” until I found myself frequently reaching for my phone and realizing I had no apps to turn to. Another challenge arose whenever I had some news to share, or even just an interesting thought. Ordinarily, I’d reach for a “tweet” or “post” button, as though the attention and community I received online had become a replacement for genuine connection and real-life friends. This isn’t to say that my online friends were any less real than those I am around physically. The fact was, I wasn’t reaching out to my online or offline friends; I had merely been shouting into a digital void and obsessively tracking the attention I received, like it was a measure of my worth. Ultimately, though, my worth isn’t determined by likes or views I receive online. Being offline allowed me to return to my old hobbies, which I do consider an actual component of my personhood. I read more, returned to embroidery, went on long walks in the sunshine and even listened to new music. Perhaps most importantly, I made an intentional effort to reignite my relationships. Instead of sharing exciting (or disappointing) information about my life online and waiting for them to see it, I called, texted and even wrote letters to them directly. I’m still not the most consistent communicator, but now I understand that my support derives from my direct circle, rather than some large digital platform. What started as a week of deactivation grew to two, then three and almost a whole month when I received an email from Twitter warning me that my account would be permanently terminated if I did not return. I did choose to reactivate, but I returned to the digital world with a stronger grip on myself, and that has led to a healthier relationship with my social media.
Macon is known for nourishing several musical legends, including the Allman Brothers Band, Little Richard and James Brown. However, the visual arts are also blooming in the city, and you can find locations to view them less than a 15-minute drive from Mercer. Check out the following locations and get involved with Macon’s rising art scene. House of X-Art Doubling as one of downtown Macon’s art galleries as well as a paint and sip lounge, you are sure to have a good time at the House of X. The gallery portion rotates a variety of themes and selects a couple of representative artists, while the lounge hosts events such as paint and sips, karaoke, spoken word and more, all of which follow COVID-19 safety precautions. More information can be found on their Facebook. Macon Arts Alliance According to their website, the goal of the Macon Arts Alliance is to “foster and support the advancement of arts and culture in Central Georgia." They have founded a COVID-19 creative relief fund and frequently update open calls for art in Macon. They also exhibit and sell art in their gallery, with a new artist spotlighted each month. Find them on First Street downtown. Macon Clay Macon Clay is brand new in town, having just opened its doors this year. Amy McCullough, gallery owner and workshop instructor, is a trained ceramicist who is happy to share her knowledge with others through her pottery classes. Moreover, you can support a local artist by purchasing her artwork in the gallery. Look for Macon Clay on Second Street. McEachern Art Center Also on Second Street, the McEachern Art Center prides itself on being “the premiere art gallery of Macon,” according to Director Ben Dunn, and for good reason. The contemporary art gallery, partnered with Mercer University, seeks out exciting emerging artists from around the country to showcase in Macon. In addition to artwork, the location features poetry readings, live music and talks with the artists themselves, all free and open to the public. Museum of Arts and Sciences A wide array of fun experiences are to be had at Macon’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, including four fine art exhibits (one permanent and three that change out regularly, so there is often something new to view), a planetarium and a mini zoo. College students get in at a discounted rate of $7. Learn about current and upcoming exhibitions and events from their website. stARTup Studios Whether you are stopping by to gaze at their art gallery or partake in one of their ceramics, painting, glass-blowing or any number of other such DIY art events, there is always something happening at stARTup Studios. The prices for classes are pricier than the other recommendations on this list, but the instruction and end-product are unforgettable. Stay up to date with all their events by liking their Facebook page. The 567 Center for Renewal Return to the 567 Center for Renewal every few weeks for a brand new exhibit, as they feature a different artist every month. They uplift local artists of every skill and medium, so there is sure to be something for every viewer’s taste. They also teach classes that range from painting to photography to pottery. Additionally, they are outspoken supporters of Macon’s public art, including sculpture and graffiti. Read up about their next show on their website. Tubman Museum The nation’s largest museum committed to showcasing African American art, culture and history is located right here in Macon at the Tubman Museum. They have a mixture of permanent pieces you can return to again and again, traveling exhibits, signature events like All That Jazz and the Pan-African festival and changing shows. Their next exhibition will feature local Black women artists, which you can learn about from their website.
Third-year student Zianah Marshall got her start in visual art this past summer, when she found a blank poster board at a George Floyd protest she was attending and began to draw. Since then, Marshall’s passion for art has only grown. Black beauty and Black power are two of the most prominent themes of Marshall’s work. “I find Black people very beautiful, mostly because we’ve been told that we weren’t for a really long time. I think it’s important to express that, draw that, show Black people in that light because we haven’t been in that light for so long,” Marshall said. Marshall’s work is visually stunning, filled from edge to edge with vibrant colors and movement. She said she takes much of her inspiration from the music she listens to. “Whatever I’m listening to, whether it be a specific lyric or a song title, something that I heard — like, for the exclamation mark one, the song ‘!’ by Trippie (Redd) inspired that one,” Marshall said. “As I continue drawing, I build on the different concepts and the colors.” Marshall went on to explain that her musical inspiration is diverse and wide-ranging, which makes each art piece unique. She credits her Trinidadian mother and her Jamaican father with their reggae, calypso and hip-hop influences as well as for Marshall’s Christian upbringing. Marshall also keeps Travis Scott and A$AP Mob in her listening rotation but cites KAYTRANADA’s album, “BUBBA,” as her largest muse overall. The strong musical influences make sense when one takes into account that Marshall produces music in addition to her visual art. Marshall has been making music since she played GarageBand with her brother as kids, and she picked up the talent seriously around 2019. In late 2020, she began posting her beats to SoundCloud. She takes pride in the unique sounds she creates. “I feel like it’s kind of an extension of my art,” Marshall said in reference to her music. “You can see it visually, and now you can experience it — you can hear my art, too.” Marshall’s artistic forms are inseparable from each other. She’ll often draw upon her drawings to establish a title and tone for her songs and set one of her artworks as the cover piece for the song inspired by it. “I have one song that I matched with the whale art — I believe it’s called ‘Ziaya and Mario’s World.’ It’s kind of like a Mario vibe, and I did that because I used to play Mario World with my family when I was younger back when the Wii was popular. It was a homage to my family, it matched with the whale and the underwater picture, and it kind of just reflected the watery feeling of that,” Marshall said. Although there are no lyrics to Marshall’s music, Marshall views music medium as a storytelling device to communicate her feelings and the meanings behind her artworks. “It’s just been a way for me to express myself in just a different way other than physically talking to you,” Marshall said. “Art kind of takes it a little bit deeper ‘cause not only is it, like, an expression of yourself, but other people around you get meaning from it, whether it be the same interpretation that you have or something different.” Marshall’s interest in people’s diverse interpretations on a subject is also what drives her passion for history, which is her course of study at Mercer. Hearing different perspectives allows Marshall to understand current events and her own art more deeply. Additionally, Marshall is pursuing a minor in Africana studies. She became interested in the subject after taking Prison Narratives and Intro to Africana Studies during her first year at Mercer. “When I came to the South — I used to live in New York until I was 14 — Black history kind of just got meshed into everything else,” Marshall said. “So, when I got to college and took those courses, I finally got an in-depth look at Black history, and I was like, whoa. We’re pretty cool people. We’re pretty resilient. We’ve been through a lot, but we’re still here, and that kind of just inspires everything that I do.” Marshall ultimately aspires to become a history professor, but she intends to continue making music and art into the future. “Taking the time to be creative, finding something that you love to do, is really important,” said Marshall. “I’ve enjoyed it, and I feel like it’s kind of brought me a little bit closer to learning more about myself.” You can find Marshall’s art on Instagram @zia.yaahhh and her music on SoundCloud at “Ziaya With Da Beats.”
A place to view and create art: that’s the intent of Mercer’s downtown McEachern Art Center, affectionately referred to as the MAC. The MAC’s gallery opened to the public in early 2019 with support from Teresa McEachern and the Griffith Family Foundation of Macon. It is directed by Ben Dunn, a painter and art professor at Mercer University. The MAC’s mission, according to its website, is to enrich the art scene in Macon by displaying contemporary art from around the country in the downstairs galleries and hosting art students in the upstairs classrooms and studio spaces. By all accounts, the MAC is succeeding in its intent. The MAC’s first gallery exhibition, “Foundations,” took place during the spring of 2019 and represented the works of Mercer’s art faculty. Since then, the MAC has featured a variety of emerging artists, including Ryna Frankel, Charvis Harrell and, most recently, five recent MFA graduates who displayed their artwork as part of a show titled “TAUT.” The studios were completed in 2020, so this has been students’ first use of the space for a full academic year. Previously, Mercer’s art studios were located at the downtown Contemporary Arts Exchange, where all of Mercer’s current fine art faculty once created as students themselves. When the building was sold to an apartment developer in 2018, Mercer’s art department had to find a new creative outlet for students. They landed on the MAC: a non-commercial, independent, artistic space located right in the middle of downtown Macon on Second Street. “Being downtown is big,” Dunn said. “It exposes Mercer students to the community, helping them engage the town, while saving a little space for creativity in the midst of the real estate in the area.” The current MAC studios are sectioned off with floor-to-ceiling length mobile wooden dividers. To accommodate the larger number of graphic design and fine arts students in the current junior and senior classes, Dunn arranged the dividers into triangles to make the most use of the floor space. Art students are permitted and encouraged to tack, paint and decorate the walls within their personal studios as they see fit. “Studio spaces are delivered to enrolled, declared majors,” Dunn said. “Preference goes to seniors and juniors in the (Bachelor of Fine Arts program), but there is plenty of room at this time.” However, because Mercer’s art department is so tight-knit, Dunn also accepts atypical requests. Currently, there is at least one first-year art student working in the studio. Moreover, Dunn is also passionate about a multidisciplinary approach to creativity. He encourages not only visual artists but also people skilled in the art of language to take advantage of the space offered at the MAC. “This is a beautiful old building where painters, poets and scholars can engage one another in social and intellectual meetings,” Dunn said. Dunn’s own studio is also located on the second floor of the MAC, so he works alongside and is easily accessible to the art students while they create. Two of those students are third-year students Amanda Herrold and Faith Reagin, both pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Mercer. Herrold hails from Macon, so she said she appreciated the nearness of Mercer to home. She has also had the opportunity to follow both her interests in religion and art. “Everybody is so wonderful, and they genuinely care,” she said. “I would recommend Mercer for anybody at this point, especially artists, and also people going into religious studies.” In her artwork, Herrold is interested in figurative, representational artwork — artwork that depicts people and their personal journeys. Recently, she has been exploring more abstract, color-focused subject matter, which often finds her on the floor splattering, smearing and carving paint onto pages and pages of sketchbook paper. Her studio affords her the space to be expansive and messy in her creative process. “Set-up is really important to being able to actually produce work and get it out and get it done,” Herrold said. “The amount of work I’ve been able to produce is up so much, and I think it’s directly correlated to the fact that I have a space to dedicate purely to the artistic endeavors.” Dunn seconds Herrold’s sentiment, describing an artist’s studio space as “sacred.” “We need spaces to take the creative work seriously, and where we can let our guard down to hear the demands of our work. This isn’t that different than folks going to a beautiful church, I assume,” Dunn said. Another benefit to having a community studio space that is separate from both home and Mercer’s main campus is the chance for artists to work in close proximity to each other. Peeking into the unique studios that fill the MAC’s second floor, you’ll find a diverse array of mediums and motifs: graphite drawings, digital art, sculptures, spray painted canvases; people, shapes, cartoons, landscapes. “You know, we may not understand exactly what the intricacies of all of our thought processes are and everything going on behind the work, but we understand that we’re artists trying to make art, and so the environment is of a mutual understanding and a mutual — I guess, it’s a nurturing environment,” Herrold said. Herrold and Reagin are “studio buddies,” meaning their studios are neighboring each other, and they both laud the ability to engage in prompt, constructive dialogue. “It’s nice to have somebody else also in that creative space. You know, we have our own space, but we’re also there together, and that’s also really nice because we can bounce ideas off each other and give feedback immediately on our work,” Reagin said. Reagin’s specialty is in drawing, and her material of choice is graphite, though she is also skilled in ink, charcoal, paint and pastels. A motif she finds herself returning to frequently is hands. “In one of my classes here at the lovely, lovely Mercer, I had a professor that made me draw in my sketchbook — it was Yvonne (Gabriel) — every day,” Reagin said. “I either read somewhere or heard somebody say, ‘Hands, when they’re wrong — anybody can see when they’re really wrong because they’re something we look at literally every day.’ When I got good enough in my head of drawing hands, then it was a cool accomplishment to me. Now, it’s fun to make hands look super weird and gnarly.” Reagin attests to the multitudinous benefits she reaps by having a studio space at the MAC, finding it to be a greater help than she’d originally anticipated. “I was like, ‘I can make art wherever,’ but that is not the case, and it’s just so much nicer to have a space dedicated to making art,” Reagin said. “It’s freeing in a way because that’s your space, and you can do whatever you want with it.” “Art is my future,” concluded Reagin, a statement that rings true for herself, Herrold and many of the other Mercer artists working within the MAC studios. “I hope that students leave the MAC prepared to make a persistent demand for space for art in their own life, and serve their communities by helping others access these spaces,” Dunn said. Indeed, in their own ways, Herrold and Reagin demonstrate their commitment to carrying on the MAC’s legacy. Reagin dreams of creating a future for herself as a full-time artist, and Herrold plans to pass on her artistic knowledge to younger generations.
2020 was undeniably rough, stripping us of too many of the things we hold dear, including live concerts—but music prevailed. The following artists, both new and rising, have produced incredible work you should be adding to your playlists, especially as they promise to break through in the coming year. Arlo Parks At only 20 years old, Arlo Parks is bursting with talent: she’s been featured by NPR and spotlighted by Michelle Obama, amongst other recognitions. It’s no surprise that she’s received so much appreciation. Her soft songs are tender and vulnerable, capturing the way it feels growing out of adolescence into adulthood. In fact, Parks has even been lauded as a voice for our generation. NEWEST RELEASE: “Hope” (single) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Black Dog” and “Green Eyes” Asiahn Sitting snugly at the intersection of pop and R&B, Asiahn is a vocal powerhouse and criminally underrated. As an out lesbian, her proud lyrics are incredibly empowering. She often sings about the complexities of relationships, self-discovery and exploring life. NEWEST RELEASE: “The Interlude” (EP) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Belong” and “Curiosity” Dijon Dijon is most recognizable for his 2018 single, “Skin,” but his entire discography is one worth listening to. With a soft voice and gentle articulation of deep, earnest feelings, Dijon’s music sweeps listeners away on a hazy cloud. NEWEST RELEASE: “The Stranger” (single) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Nico’s Red Truck” and “Drunk” Hope Tala I discovered Hope Tala when Raveena recorded “Floating” with her in 2019. Tala is a talented musician in her own right, releasing track after danceable track in the past couple of years. Her sound is summer-bubbles-meets-summer-blues, and much of her content basks in sensitivity. NEWEST RELEASE: “Girl Eats Sun” (EP) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Moontime” and “Lovestained” Kyle Dion Instrumentally, Kyle Dion’s got funk. Vocally, he’s buttery smooth with an irresistible falsetto, which he isn’t afraid to use to its fullest effect. A contemporary artist with a timeless sound, Kyle Dion would be a regrettable artist to miss out on. NEWEST RELEASE: “That Don’t Mean a Thing” (single) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Brown” and “Hands to Yourself” Nilüfer Yanya Nilüfer Yanya’s music defies genre boundaries; it can best be described as a jazzy sort of pop, supplemented by her gravelly voice and hard guitars. She handles subjects both soft and tough with a trademark grittiness, and the motif of repetition immerses listeners in the worlds she creates. NEWEST RELEASE: “Feeling Lucky?” (EP) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Heavyweight Champion of the Year” and “Day 7.5093” Orion Sun Something is injected into the music of Orion Sun to make it sound simultaneously nostalgic and current. Perhaps it’s the combination of lax beats and a soulful voice. Or maybe it’s the emotional lyrics juxtaposed with her chuckles sporadically breaking through. Whatever the case, Orion Sun makes subtle, moving tunes you can play in the background of your next hangout. NEWEST RELEASE: “Forever” (single) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Antidote” and “Coffee for Dinner” Q Q’s discography spans acoustic and pop, demonstrating his range as an artist. His music has picked up more groove throughout the years, but his lyrics remain consistently intimate and raw, with romance and religion featuring as prominent themes. NEWEST RELEASE: “The Shave Experiment” (EP) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Your Special” and “Lavender” Serena Isioma Serena Isioma took off on TikTok when her song, “Sensitive,” went viral, and if you were as into it as I was, I guarantee you’ll find the whole EP to be refreshing. Isioma carries a distinct energy into her music, and her upbeat lyrics are rife with self love. NEWEST RELEASE: “The Leo Sun Sets” (EP) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Do I Make You Nervous” and “I Feel Fantastic” Tanerélle It was almost impossible to pick only two of Tanerélle’s songs to recommend because there isn’t a single bad track in her discography. Her slow, deep, sultry voice transports listeners into the celestial realm, and her ethereal instruments elevate one to heavenly heights. NEWEST RELEASE: “Star” (single) ALSO CHECK OUT: “Love from NGC 7318” and “Dreamgirl”
Valentine’s Day: culture’s ultimate celebration of love. And what says love more than creating something special with your own hands for the people you cherish—or treating yourself to something sweet? Whether you’re celebrating Feb. 14 with lovers, friends, family or yourself, here are some homemade gift ideas. Embroidered Clothing There is love to be found in the act of repetition, in doing something tedious over and over to produce something beautiful. Consider embroidering your initials or a special symbol onto your loved one’s sweatshirt sleeves or the collar of their button-up so they can receive a tender reminder of your appreciation when they wear it. If you’re new to crafting, “The Spruce Crafts” is full of simple-to-follow instructions for various stitches. Wire-Wrapped Jewelry Not only is wire-wrapped jewelry relatively simple to make and pretty to look at, but you can also imbue it with an extra layer of special meaning if you incorporate crystals. There are hundreds of crystals to choose from, each charged with its own energy. Whether your loved one needs creative inspiration, contentment, to connect with their deep emotions or any other number of qualities, you can help them attract it with this thoughtful gift. Playlist Making someone a playlist—carefully poring over the millions of hours of music that exist and selecting the perfect few that capture your loved one—is already an intimate gift, but you can take it a step further. Accompany your playlist with a set of cards, each with the particular lyric that reminds you of your person or a memory you’ve shared together. Origami Love Notes Origami lucky hearts are easy and quick to make, so you can fill a jar or bottle with dozens of them. Your loved one can unwrap them to reveal all the little things you admire about them. Handwritten Poems or Letter Nothing says “I love you” quite like saying it. You don’t have to be the next Pablo Neruda to make something extraordinary. Write from the heart and seal it with a kiss, a wax seal or a cute sticker for something your loved one will always cherish. Alternatively, search for published poems that describe the way you feel and hand-bind them in a little book. Video Montage More of a visual person? Collect the photos and videos you’ve taken of your loved one during your time together, and edit them into a clip that they can view over and over again. Adobe Premiere and iMovie make video editing easy. You can add “your” song in the background for a unique touch.