Memphis College of Art is closing to students, opening its classes to creative entrepreneurs

Memphis College of Art and the Memphis chapter of the Rising Tide Society are pairing up to offer workshops for area makers and creative entrepreneurs in the next phase of programming informed by the Made By Project. 

While MCA announced last October that the school will be closing after the graduating class of 2020 cycles out, due to financial difficulties, MCA's leadership is looking to evolve the college’s investment to the community until that point. 


Through its community education offerings, MCA is building a framework for continued learning opportunities made by and for creative entrepreneurs — even once campus doors are closed.


With its first class taking place October 27, the goal of MCA's Positively Creative series is to offer educational opportunities to creative entrepreneurs who are just starting a business or fine-tuning an existing model. 


According to CeCe Palazola, director of Community Education for MCA, the school’s legacy will in part be found in educational programming and partnerships with organizations like the Rising Tide Society. And organizations like the Rising Tide Society, a national network of creative entrepreneurs, are working now so they can be ready to help fill the gap once MCA graduates its final class.


“Together we have built initial classes for this fall and spring semester, honing in on topics that were highest on our members’ wish list and were also currently not being offered in the Memphis creative market,” said Dorothy Collier, founder of the Memphis chapter of The Rising Tide Society

Related: "Q&A: The Rising Tide Society serves a swell of creative entrepreneurs"


“Our members were seeking more in-depth, one-on-one learning and workshops to help build their creative businesses. The Positively Creative series is just that,” she added.


Data and feedback from the Rising Tide Society and the Made By Project helped shape the class offerings. The Positively Creative series gets its name from a Rising Tide Society podcast where members discuss the ins and outs of how to run a creative business.


Launched in 2016, The Made By Project is a first-of-its-kind research initiative to understand the lives and livelihoods of Memphis-area makers, artisans and small-scale manufacturers, with the goal of developing a multi-year plan that supports this group of local business owners.

The Rising Tide Society offers free programs for creative entrepreneurs in addition to the opportunity to network. The organization hosts “Tuesday Together” meetings the second Tuesday of each month, with discussion topics including SEO strategy, social media and branding.

Students listen to Katie Steed's lecture on visual brand identity during a community education class at Memphis College of Art, held in the spring of 2017. (Brandon Dahlberg)
MCA offered a first wave of community education classes last spring, which were open to the Memphis public, to bolster the city’s population of makers and artisans. These first-of-their-kind classes were born out of early recommendations from the Made By Project.


The Positively Creative Summit, hosted by the college on September 8, kicked off the new series and served as an introduction to the types of programming that will available in the fall and next spring.


The fall programming of the Positively Creative series will feature three workshops, each taught by a Memphis-based professional.


“Kat Gordon will have a visioning workshop. It’s almost like storytelling. You take a very detailed vision of a day in the life two years out, five years out, and so on. You tell a very detailed story about what that looks like for your business,” said Palazola.


Gordon is the owner of Muddy’s Bake Shop, which has locations in Cooper-Young and East Memphis. The intent of the workshop is to help entrepreneurs develop a long-term approach and outlook when short-term obstacles distract from the goals. There will be three sessions that help participants write their vision, including redrafts, planning and next steps. The first session is October 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at MCA.


“This is a little bit more esoteric, a little bit more forward-thinking and visionary. Then, we have more practical things — website hosting and using Squarespace,” said Palazola.


Squarespace is a template-based software for website building and hosting. Beginner and advanced workshops will be available. An introductory session will be held on October 13 with an intermediate guide on October 17. The classes will be led by Andy Torres, who has over 20 years of experience in public and private tech support. Workshops run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MCA.


The branding session is a one-day workshop that will be led by Dana Mwangi and Eso Tolson of Cheers Creative. Brand journaling is designed to help entrepreneurs clarify their business goals, purpose, values and offerings. It will be held on Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MCA.


“They will be able to clarify their goals and values for their business and figure out what they are trying to communicate with their brand and then figuring out how to do that,” said Palazola.


More programming will be offered in the spring. Registration began October 1. Marketing tools like Instagram and blogging, vending at fairs and festivals, and visual branding will be the focus of the 2019 classes.


“The long-term vision is being an asset to the creative community, and with us partnering with Rising Tide, I would expect they would carry this on after we close our doors,” said Palazola.

Read more articles by Kim and Jim Coleman.

Kim Coleman is a journalist with over 20 years of experience in newsrooms as a reporter, editor and graphic designer, including ten years with The Commercial Appeal as Design Director/Senior Editor and Print Planning Editor. 


Jim Coleman is a freelance writer, covering a variety of topics from high school sports, community news and small business. He has written for different news organizations over the past 20 years, including The Commercial Appeal, Community Weeklies, Lexington Herald-Leader and The Albuquerque Journal.

Signup for Email Alerts