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MCA Stories: Tootsie Bell

Tootsie Bell
BFA in Sculpture/Illustration, 1988

Tootsie BellWhat are you working on now?
I am sole proprietor of Tootsie Bell silversmith/jeweler. I will celebrate 25 years of business this fall. Since graduating I have continued to exhibit regionally and have also pursued public art. At this point I have four public art pieces in Memphis and I’m looking forward to more. After working small for so many years, it has been a great joy to embrace my sculptural roots and work big again.

What was a memorable experience you had at MCA?
I think my most memorable experience at MCA was going to Horn Island the first time. I’ve been 15 or so times and I always come home with something different. But the first time I went to Horn Island, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. You really have to dig deep out there…to weather the elements, to quiet the mind, to open your spirit… I grow every time I’m there. It’s is truly a magical place. That will be Bob Riseling’s legacy, the great gift that he gave to every student that has been on that trip.

What does MCA mean to you?
MCA means the world to me. Coming from a small town where I didn’t quite fit in and moving to a bigger city with the embracing creative community of MCA gave me direction and belonging. It basically saved my life. The care of the faculty and staff, the friends and community there, it’s like one big family: a network of support and encouragement where creative minds flourish. There has never been, nor will there ever be a place like Memphis College of Art.

What do you think MCA’s legacy will be?
For nearly 85 years, Memphis College of Art, formerly Memphis Academy of Art, has fed this city with great creative fuel. It has given birth to hundreds of artists that have gone on to touch other parts of the world and hundreds more that have stayed to shape the culture of Memphis as we know it today. So that, to me, is MCA’s greatest legacy.

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