Joel Parsons ’07 Returns to Rhodes as Clough-Hanson Gallery Director

Rhodes’ Clough-Hanson Gallery is an important venue in the Memphis arts community, and Rhodes alumnus Joel Parsons ’07 will serve as its director for 2013-2014 as well as a part-time assistant professor in the Rhodes Department of Art.

The first show of the season is “Tom Lee: Sheer Delight” that opens Sept. 6 and runs through Oct. 11. Lee has been teaching at the Memphis College of Art since 1989 and will give an artist lecture about his work on Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. in Blount Auditorium.

“It′s been so much fun to work with Tom, and it′s a perfect show to kick off this season,” says Parsons. “He showed at Clough-Hanson once before when Marina Pacini was the director, and Marina′s successor, Hamlett Dobbins, started organizing this show before he left. Hamlett has taught me more about art than anyone else I′ve known, and so it′s surreal to be in this position now, stepping into his shoes. I′m really standing on the shoulders of giants here.”

While an art major at Rhodes, Parsons participated in the Bonner Scholarship Program and founded the “More Than Art” program at Idlewild Presbyterian Church that brings together the homeless and the wider community through art and a meal. Parsons also studied the connection between art and social change in the Czech Republic his junior year and received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship his senior year that allowed him to travel and collaborate with artists in five countries on four continents.

After graduating from Rhodes, Parsons received a Master of Fine Arts on a President′s Fellowship from the sculpture department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Atlanta, and Memphis as well as Turkey, South Africa, and India. In addition to directing the Clough-Hanson Gallery, Parsons is serving as exhibitions coordinator at the Metal Museum in Memphis. He also runs a small alternative space devoted to queer art and performance called Beige.

Clough-Hanson Gallery’s second exhibition is new work by Chicago artist Allison Wade. Says Parsons, "There′s an honesty in the way that Allison uses materials that is really compelling. There′s a lot of vulnerability in her work. She can make an abstract sculpture that will break your heart." The show runs Oct. 25-Dec. 4.

"The art department and Clough-Hanson Gallery were a huge part of my development as a young artist, and as a person,” adds Parsons. “I′m so honored to be able to come back and invest something in a place that gave me so much."