Artistry on Campus unites artists. 

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If Jarvis Howard hadn't run away from home, Artistry on Campus might not be a reality.

Howard, 23, is one of the founders of the organization, which was designed to unite artists, writers, dancers, and other creative types at University of Memphis by promoting their talent and giving them exposure through events on and off campus.

Howard, who began drawing as a child, ran away when he was in the fifth grade. "I was trying to fit in with my friends," he says. "I was hard on my mom because she couldn't afford the stuff my friends had. Shoes and clothes. Like Jordans. Nike's were popping at the time.

"I took my sketchbook outside, and I ripped my sketches into pieces. I walked down the street. Then I came back home. My sketchbook was back in the house. My grandfather went outside and he taped every piece together."

That's the point when Howard began to take pride in his work. And, he says, "As I got older, I apologized to my mom."

Artistry on Campus was born after Howard, Johnathan Russell, and Sumojaih Archer got together at the student center. Howard painted a '90s-type cartoon character on a jacket, Archer customized a hat, and Russell worked on a picture of a lion. "We were just sitting up there drawing and painting and sketching," Howard says. "Next thing you know in my head I was thinking, 'We need to start an art club.'"

click to enlarge Johnathan Russell (left) - and Jarvis Howard
  • Johnathan Russell (left) and Jarvis Howard

"We all just showed each other our art work, [the] different styles, different things that we're interested in, and decided to have an organization," Russell says.

They wanted to "find others who are also interested in the arts and just continue to grow and connect," he says.

"We were just trying to come in contact with and make a family of a lot of visual artists," Russell says. "People who did photography, people who did journalism, people who were interested in music. We wanted to include as many different crafts and forms of art as we could because we know we all draw inspiration from all those areas of life. So, we didn't want to exclude anybody from the opportunity."

"I love the idea," says their advisor, Devon Thompson, administrative assistant in U of M's student leadership and involvement department. "I'm always willing to support students who have ideas to broaden their talent."

Artistry on Campus in particular? "Their love for wanting to give back. They don't do it for the accolades or recognition for themselves. They want to take their talent and give back to their institution — the university — and the community as well."

"Sip and Paint," where Kool-Aid combined with creativity, was Artistry on Campus' first event.

They then held an art event at a nearby community center. "We were able to work with a good number of kids," Russell says. "We would walk around and help them draw little Halloween symbols."

The next planned event was to join forces with Tiger Records, a student-led record label, and host a showcase of art and music in front of the student center.

A group arts project — a mural at a McDonald's — hopefully will become a reality. "They need a mural, so our job is to provide a sketch," Howard says. "Basically, just get everyone's idea. Then we just come up with one sketch."

Long range plans? "Have a pretty big presence in the community and continue our work with community centers and just working with kids," Russell says. "We want to work at elderly homes. And just get a chance to do artwork for elderly citizens.

"A lot of us came up being told, 'Yeah, art is cool. Yeah, whatever your craft is, it's cool, but you can't live off of that. You can't make a career out of that.' I want us to disprove that and just be passionate and work on our art. And take it as far as we can. And prove that this is who we are. This is part of what we do.

"Since it's something that we were blessed with, it's ours to say how far we want to go with it."

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