Memphis Wood Excellence in Teaching Award
Known as Jacksonville’s “First Lady of Art,” Memphis Wood (1902-1989) was a well-known Jacksonville artist for over sixty years, working in many media – drawing, painting, pottery, ceramics, sculptural fiber art, and jewelry design. As a studio art teacher in local schools for 33 years, she taught many budding artists, and was a major influence on art education in Jacksonville. Memphis Wood made an astonishing contribution to art and art education in Jacksonville that is still felt today.
Memphis Wood was born in 1902 in Dacula, Georgia. She studied at the University of Florida and received her MFA from the University of Georgia. She was a member of the Florida Art Group, Florida Craftsmen, Jacksonville Art Association, and the Southeastern Art Association. She exhibited at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Jacksonville Museum of Art, Ringling Museum of Art, and Stetson University. Her work is in the collections of the University of Georgia, Murray States Teachers College, and Stetson University. Wood left an endowment and much of her collection to the Museum over thirty years ago.
Memphis Wood had a knack for seeing the beauty in things that would otherwise be cast off as by-products. The longtime Jacksonville artist and educator, who died in Atlanta 15 years ago at age 87, taught art in Duval County from 1929 until 1962. There was little money for art then, so she found herself digging through trash heaps for teaching materials like bottle caps, corks, wires and scrap fabrics — things that could be shaped into art and, in turn, shape her students’ ideas about possibilities.
“We had 25 cents a term [per student] for art supplies,” Wood told the Times-Union in 1985. “I used to walk down to a junkyard near the school and find discarded lumber. Some of it was cut in beautiful shapes. Oh the things we made out of that were lovely!”
In her honor, MOCA Jacksonville began offering the annual Memphis Wood Excellence in Teaching Award for outstanding contributions to arts in education in 2005. The award honors a First Coast educator with a $1000 honorarium, a guided tour of the museum for 30 students, and an opportunity to be a featured artist in MOCA’s annual First Coast Portfolio Exhibition in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Gallery.
Special thanks to the educators and administration of the First Coast County School system, The Education Committee of the Board of Trustees, the generosity of The MOCA Guild, and all of the nominated teachers who participated. Thank you for your passion and dedication to arts education.
Julianne French, Fernandina Beach High School
2013 Memphis Wood Excellence in Teaching Award Winner
Mary Ann Bryan Portrait of Memphis Wood, 1977.
Acrylic on canvas 1985.012, Gift of Ms. Memphis Wood.