By Courtney Cleveland
Kristen Tordella-Williams received the Richard A. Smith Award for Excellence in Scholarship for Creative Work at the Academic and Student Life Awards Day, which was held in the Academic-Complex Recital Hall on April 26, 2017.
“The award is given once a year to faculty members who distinguish themselves through their research or creative practice. It’s not necessarily one thing that they do,” said Tordella-Williams. “This award was for my second year (of teaching) where I did a bunch of really interesting things, in my opinion, where I traveled to China as a part of a cross-cultural artist’s exchange.”
Through this exchange, Tordella-Willams could then exhibit some of her works, give lectures at a university, and visit other artists’ galleries which helped her gain some personal connections.
Another vital aspect to her award was her production of cast-iron wreaths. She has been producing wreaths since 2015. However, this specific project began in the Fall of 2016. Tordella-Williams had to go through a process of applying for grants beforehand.
“I got a small grant from the Greater Jackson Arts Council, a small grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, and then I used my Faculty Development grant from Millsaps, and then some other funding that we have for Arts faculty… so I pieced together all of these things and then used some of my own money,” said Tordella-Williams.
When designing the project, Tordella-Williams wanted to know how she could give back to the community that she is a part of.
“I wanted to know how I could reach out to the community that I’m in… So I decided to work at the library. I’ve always loved reading… (The wreath was made through) the casting of handprints mixed with books,” she said.
The finished product is around five feet tall, and it will be displayed in the Eudora-Welty library after final touches are made sometime this fall.
Tordella-Williams says she is thankful that Millsaps supported this project. She advises the campus to be on the lookout for the unveiling of the wreath soon. You can view the wreath and some of Dr. Tordella-Williams’ other works online at her website at http://cargocollective.com/kristentordellawilliams.