For Emily Burkhead, Class of 2020, her Rhodes experience laid the foundation for a Master’s in Fine Arts at Michigan State University, but, like so many other Rhodes students, that wasn’t her original plan when she stepped onto campus as a wide-eyed first year.
Burkhead chose Rhodes because she wanted a liberal arts education and a college that could help her develop close relationships with professors. Originally from Memphis, Burkhead found that attending college in her hometown allowed her to get to know Memphis in better ways and be close to family.
Burkhead was set on pursuing a pre-law track, but quickly found a new passion in her Urban Studies classes, where she, “felt glued to the seat every time.” Burkhead eventually majored in Urban Studies with a minor in Film and media studies, but it wasn’t just her experiences in the classroom that fostered her passion for art.
Burkhead says, “The Mike Curb Institute gave me a good foundation for doing not just technical skills, but creative project managing, which is huge for the field I’m in.” Her experience with the Curb Institute also helped Burkhead hone the skills needed to manage artistic projects on her own. Burkhead pointed to two shining moments from her time spent in the Institute:
First, during her senior year, she assisted in the creation of the film “Return to Audubon” which the Curb Institute and local recording artist Susan Marshall created to mourn the destruction of 1034 Audubon Drive the first home purchased by Elvis Presley with the royalties from the hit single “Heartbreak Hotel”.
Second, Burkhead helped create the Dredge, a free online magazine, that publishes all things Memphis art, music, and culture. The magazine survived the COVID-19 pandemic and now has a big impact on the Rhodes and Memphis art community. Burkhead said that being from Memphis has taught her it is “okay to be weird” in her art.
After graduating in the spring of 2020, Burkhead was looking for a job and thinking of going to graduate school. With the encouragement from Rhodes professor Karl Erickson, she decided on graduate school. She is now at Michigan State University receiving an MFA in Studio Art. Her Rhodes education continues to be an asset, as every semester she takes a seminar which requires the critical reading and in class conversations Burkhead enjoyed during her time at Rhodes. After she completes her MFA, Burkhead plans to move to Los Angeles and hopefully pursue a PhD in Media Studies or Urban Studies. She advises current Rhodes students to “do what you want in college and take classes that interest you.” She also encourages students to “communicate with old professors because they will want to help you.”
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