Limestone Professor Carolyn Ford Piles Up Exhibitions And Accolades

Charles Wyatt
Carolyn Ford - Salisbury

It is typically athletes, not artists, who are praised for their endurance, but Limestone University Professor of Art Carolyn Ford is still pushing through an artistic marathon that has spanned more than a year and reaches from coast-to-coast.

Overall, Ford’s work has been showcased in more than 17 exhibitions since the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year.

One of those was “Tangled Roots: Exploring Appalachian Feminisms,” which took place in the spring of 2022 in Lexington, KY. The exhibition explored the history of creative practices that have long been passed down by Appalachian women, but also looked at how those practices have changed and now reflect a more contemporary Appalachia.

Born in Tennessee, Ford drew from what she had seen and learned to craft ceramic plates displaying Southern women at work, usually household chores, in a sgraffito design. She also made sure to expand what people consider “women’s work” by including pieces with Volunteer State legends Dolly Parton and June Carter performing on stage.

Ford’s work also maintains a home at the Asheville Museum of Art. Three ceramic plates from her “Southernisms” series are currently in an ongoing special exhibition, “Intersection in American Art,” a reinstallation of the museum’s collection.

Just a couple of hours away via Interstate 40 in Salisbury, NC, she is also featured in “ART for ALL – I AM: Identity. Stories. Connection.” The special juried exhibition features 150 works from 55 artists, mostly new, upcoming or established artists from the Carolinas telling their personal and cultural stories. It will remain at the Waterworks Visual Arts Center until January 27, 2023.

The preparation for this marathon came when Ford took a sabbatical from January to May 2020. During that time, Ford completed an artist-in-residency with Mission Clay Art + Industry at Missions Building Products in Phoenix.

Mission Building Products is known to produce sustainable, earthquake-resistant ceramic sewer pipes, and Ford was able to utilize their large kilns to create an art “column” from old sewer pipe to be used as public art.

“My residency was an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “Not only did I have access to creating monumental art, but I also learned about the industrial manufacturing side to my medium. Ceramics goes far beyond historical pottery. It is an interdisciplinary art incorporating art, science, math, engineering.”

Public art is not the only example of Ford’s work taking her outside the galleries, though. In March, Ford was featured as a demonstrating artist at the 2022 Conference for the National Council on the Education of Ceramic Arts, held in Sacramento. Then in September, she led drawing workshops for theater set and stage design at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Conference in Asheville.

The list of accomplishments, exhibits, and conferences goes on, and Ford is constantly submitting her works to new locations.

She does make sure to stay grounded in Gaffney though, offering her skills and time to many organizations, businesses, and institutions in Cherokee County. Whether through volunteering, paid commissions, or teaching, Ford’s fingerprints can be found (perhaps literally) in multiple places around the county.

“Cherokee County has big plans. I see the potential in our town. I’m invested,” Ford said. “We have downtown businesses coming in bringing a chance to eat, drink and be social with live music. We’ve got coffee to beer pubs, with owners who believe in the revitalization of downtown.”

As a member of the Cherokee County Alliance of Visual Arts (CAVA), Ford maintains a strong relationship with artists in the region and is adamant about promoting the arts within Cherokee County. Anyone who visits Zakary’s, Peach City Brewery, or the YMCA has likely seen a Ford work. She’s painted the Christmas murals downtown and will be incorporating those into her lesson plans for Limestone art students. Two of her pieces, “Kiss My Grits” and “Caffeinated (Zakary’s),” won the People’s Choice Award in back-to-back exhibits at the Gaffney Visitors Center and Gallery.

She is also an art consultant for the Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society (CHAPS), which is working to celebrate the role of Cherokee County and South Carolina in the American Revolution by educating, engaging, and inspiring residents and visitors.

“Our downtown is a link to our campus,” she said. “By connecting downtown, CAVA, CHAPS and Limestone, we can create a supportive cultured community.”

Ford has been a part of Limestone’s Department of Art since 2003, previously serving as Department Chair for 10 years. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Middle Tennessee State University where she also studied abroad in Italy and Master of Fine Arts from Washington State University. As an avid traveler, Ford incorporates cultural experiences and history from Peru and China into her art classes.

A piece of Ford’s work is part of the ongoing exhibit “Strained Separations: Reflections on a Pandemic,” which will run until November 14 at the Limestone Art Gallery in the Hines & Riggins Center.

Accompanying Photo: Carolyn Ford at the reception earlier this year in Salisbury, NC, where her art was featured in the exhibit “ART for ALL – I AM: Identity. Stories. Connection.”