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ETSU Art and Design professor receives Tennessee Arts Commission fellowship

Contributed To The Press • Jan 7, 2017 at 7:35 PM

Travis Graves of East Tennessee State University recently received an Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The TAC awards these fellowships annually to professional artists who have shown exceptional talent working in their chosen disciplines. These fellowships support the first goal, Thriving Tennessee Arts and Culture, in the commission’s five-year strategic plan by promoting the professional development of the artists.

The Individual Artist Fellowships provide monetary awards of $5,000 to outstanding artists who, by education, experience or natural talent, engage in a particular art form or discipline and live and work in Tennessee. Fellowships may be awarded in the categories of Craft, Media, Visual Art, Dance, Music, Theater and Literary.

Graves, an associate professor of sculpture in the ETSU Department of Art and Design, received an IAF in the Visual Arts category.

While IAF recipients are not required to use the funds for a specific project, Graves has been able to upgrade some of his studio and camera equipment, and is also set to attend the third annual Pentaculum at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg during the first week of January 2017.

This artists’ residency and retreat provides participants the time and space to work alongside peers, friends and colleagues. It offers space for individual artistic growth and the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships within the art and craft field. Graves will participate in the Wood/Sculpture area of the Pentaculum, where he will have access to the woodshop and machine room, the library and other participating studios.

Graves, who examines the relationship between nature, culture and society’s dependence on nature in his artwork, says this is an interesting time to attend a residency at Arrowmont following the recent wildfires in Gatlinburg and Sevier County. The century-old school lost three buildings in the fires – two residence halls and a maintenance building – but no studios.

“I’ve been exploring a lot of video in my artwork lately, and with the devastation of the landscape, this is a unique opportunity to go up there, get my mind into that landscape, and explore the video work,” he said.

Graves also believes that getting away from his routine will have a rejuvenating effect. “How often do you get a chance to spend a week away somewhere, just to go for the purpose of exploring the ideas in your head and seeing what happens with a camera in front of you? Sometimes working in a vacuum can be limiting. You have really great ideas and execute them, but where do you get the ideas? You’ve got to get them somewhere, so for me, a lot of that is getting out in nature, gaining experience through travel, seeing artwork in galleries and museums.”

Graves, ETSU’s 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award in Teaching, says receiving the IAF “put a huge smile on (his) face.”

“It’s nice to get patted on the back and recognized for what you do,” he says. “I take myself and my work very seriously; I take my career very seriously as an artist. I try to meet the highest standards in my artwork and my teaching, and to get recognized for that at the highest levels of your institution and the state, it makes me realize I’m doing the right things. It’s worth the sacrifices to make these things happen, and I get a lot of gratification from that.”

Graves’ artwork has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout East Tennessee and across the United States. The Iowa native holds a bachelor of fine arts from Iowa State University and a master of fine arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design before coming to ETSU in 2005.

To learn more about Graves and his artwork, visit www.travisgraves.com.

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