In 2016, Michelle O’Patick-Ollis spent a month at Arrowmont as the Bill Griffith Art Educators Fellow. She has just been awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission. She credits her experiences at Arrowmont as a launching point for her recent success. She shares her reflections below.
When I applied to Arrowmont for the Art Educator’s Fellowship in 2016, my letter of intent included a desire to create imagery of my parents, both of whom were in the winter of their lives. I imagine the committee who granted me the fellowship sensed an urgency in my need to create a body of work while my precious subjects were still around.
My month at Arrowmont was a magical experience that allowed me to create and be inspired, to be a contributing member of a supportive arts community, to be a student and artist again. During this time, I created six drawings of my parents that represented the challenges of the aging process and the sense of resignation that sometimes accompanies it.
My mother passed away two months after the completion of my fellowship.
I am so grateful to Arrowmont for that uninterrupted block of time that enabled me to experiment and find my voice. The response from the Arrowmont community was supportive and enabled me to see that my artwork, although personal, was relatable and relevant to others.
The artwork that I created during the Art Educator Fellowship acted as a spring board for me.
I continued to work on this series over the course of several years. I used this series to apply for an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission. I learned about this opportunity when I attended Legacy Week at Arrowmont two years ago. I recently learned that I was awarded the fellowship from the TAC. It will enable me to complete my series by sharing my perspective as a caregiver for my parents.
The Arrowmont experience continues to have a lasting impact.
This series has been exhibited in several galleries and has won numerous awards in juried exhibits. I had my first solo museum exhibition at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, VA. I am now preparing to make a transition from full time teacher to full time artist within the next year.
View Michelle O’Patick’s 2021 exhibition, “There Will Come a Time,” reviewed for Daytime Tri Cities “Eye for the Arts” program:
Michelle O’Patick-Ollis lives in Unicoi, Tennessee and has been an art teacher for 17 years. She currently teaches fifth and sixth grade art at Indian Trail Intermediate School in Johnson City, Tennessee. She earned a BFA in printmaking from East Tennessee State University in 1995, and MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University in 1999, and an MAT in Elementary and K-12 Art Education from East Tennessee State University in 2005. She has exhibited across US in Tennessee, Virginia, Connecticut, and Georgia. She won “Best in Show” in 2021 at Kingsport Art Guild’s Appalachian Art Show.