Artist Brent Funderburk served as the head of Mississippi State University's art department for seven years, and worked on campus for 36 years.
Before his time at MSU, the North Carolina native received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from East Carolina University School of Art. He shared a story which pushed him to get back into creating during his final years at MSU.
"A student came up to me one day towards the end there and said, 'You know, Mr. Funderburk, I heard that you were once an artist,' when I was the department head," Funderburk said, laughing. "I looked down and saw through my arm to the ground like I was a ghost or something and it hurt so bad. So, I had to get back to it."
This wake up call of sorts has culminated in many spectacular pieces, some of which can now be seen in MSU's art gallery. "Here and There: Paintings and Drawings— 1981-2021" showcases the work of the artist over the span of 40 years. It is currently on display in the Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery on the second floor of the Cullis Wade Depot on campus, featuring charcoal drawings, watercolors, acrylics and oil paintings.
The showing opened on Aug. 17 and will remain on exhibit until Sept. 17, 2021. The gallery is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there are select Saturdays (upcoming football Saturdays), when the exhibit will be available for viewing two hours before kickoff.
Lori Neuenfeldt, the gallery director at the Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery, shared her passion for the gallery and the campus's art department. She spoke highly of the artist, a personal colleague of hers— particularly about his desire to be involved with the specific placement of the art around the gallery.
"He's so thoughtful with his work," Neuenfeldt said.
Neuendfeldt has the opportunity to be the contact person for every artist whose work comes through the gallery. The campus gallery is also staffed by many others, including Exhibition Coordinator Dixie Boswell.
Boswell has a passion for art that is evident as she speaks about her desire for others to come into the space and see what creations are on display.
"What I'd love for the student body and greater community to know is that we're not going to bite," Boswell said. "We want everyone to come in, not just art majors."
Although art majors are not the only audience the gallery looks for, they do play a large role in the gallery through positions such as gallery assistants. One of these gallery assistants, Kelley Proaps, a senior art major and history minor from Huntsville, Alabama, spends time in the gallery on campus as well as another one in town, gaining experience that applies to her major.
"We talk to different artists about their process and how they set up their exhibitions as well," Proaps said. "So, it's really just something that can help an artist figure out how to get their future exhibitions, how to light things and how to hang pieces."
In Funderburk's show in particular, there are 61 pieces on display. Boswell shared that in order to fit all of the pieces in the gallery, movable walls were brought in. She and Funderburk rearranged the art until it suited both of them, and the results are a well-mixed layout which showcases his black-and-white drawings as well as his bright, colorful acrylics, oil paintings and watercolors all at the same time.
A lot of the pieces that viewers will see as they walk through the gallery space are features from Funderburk's travels with his wife out West. While discussing his time of travel, he shared a little about the title of the show, and how it originates from a feeling he gets while traveling.
"We feel like we're here when we're there, which kind of explains the name of the show," Funderburk said. "Because you carry 'here' with you. If things are right, and you're carrying the presence of your true self, your authentic self, your divine self, then you're always 'here'."
On Sept. 9, Funderburk will be in the gallery from 5-7 p.m. He will be giving a brief gallery talk at 6 p.m. in the exhibition space. The artist shared his desire for people of the local community to come and view his art, but he harped particularly on the need for students to get to see art.
"I'm not special, there's nothing great about me, but there's nobody like me," Funderburk said. "I think it's good to tell the students, 'Hey, there's nobody like you, and you're starting this journey, and you're building a world within this world, which is what art is.'"