Research Teaching & Student Work

Clothing, Food, Shelter: An exploration of identity, place, and change

Clothing Food Shelter is a collaborative design research project between departments at the New York City College of Technology of The City University of New York in Brooklyn and the Memphis College of Art in Memphis, Tennessee conducted in the spring semester of 2015.

Eight students, four from each institution, acted as research assistants for design researchers, Dan Wong, Associate Professor of Communication Design at CityTech, CUNY and Cat Normoyle, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at MCA, in their design research as it affects different parts of the country.

The goals of this project were to connect design researchers and students from diverse backgrounds and locations by sharing personal stories, ideas, experiences, musings, fears, and challenges within the broad context of change and place. The first phase of this project was an investigation of the similarities and differences between the living experiences of those in Brooklyn and Memphis. While both cities are large compared to the surrounding locales, there are many micro-community experiences in each. We examined a variety of topics in each location, including things like business and commerce, history and tradition, change and challenges, and beauty and ugly as it relates to each locale.

The student research assistants used their developing skills in the areas of communication and graphic design, storytelling, branding, and marketing to find the commonalities and differences between each community’s experiences and created works in response. Over the course of the semester, students produced a range of designs from t-shirts, postcards, and posters to video, supergraphics, and photography.

Student work samples:

Spatial Interventions

Community Members fight blight in South Memphis

Over a three-day work session, Memphis College of Art under the direction of Cat Normoyle, leads a community public art project in South Memphis. Students who participated in this project include Noah Miller, Taylor Touchstone, King Hobson, and Eugenia Mosley.

The project was forged from discussions between Cat Normoyle and Dorian Spears (Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team + 25 Square Initiative). Spears put Normoyle in touch with the organization Knowledge Quest who was looking to reclaim and beautify an abandoned apartment complex in their neighborhood through art and education. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from Autozone.

The Need

Knowledge Quest boarded up windows and doors of the abandoned site at 1042 S. Lauderdale Street earlier in the year. They hoped to add artwork to the boards of the apartment complex that was two-fold; Walls 1-4 would focus on healthy eating and their community garden and Walls 5-8 would focus on education and literacy.

1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)
1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)

The Vision

While creating the artwork for the mural, I wanted to stay true to the space we were working with so I thought of the boards as “windows” into a bigger picture. I also wanted the windows to be a sort of reflection of the community in which it resides.

With that in mind, I started to develop The Gardens which flow in and out of the lower-level windows of Walls 1-4. I wanted The Garden to look as green and fresh and fun as possible to reflect upon the vibrant and diverse community. The upper-level windows show children waving from their bedrooms and clouds floating in the bright sky.

As we rotate around the building to view The Library mural, the upper-level sky transitions into a romantic evening sky where children read under lamp light. The lower-level windows peer into the library where infinite book shelves of imaginative and magical worlds of reading are emphasized.

The Gardens (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)
The Library (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)

Related Press

New Themed Murals Spruce Up Empty Building

The Installation

Photo Gallery

Teaching & Student Work

Advertising Design and Sustainable Design Students Fight Gun Violence with Guerrilla Awareness Campaign

MCA’s Advertising Design and Sustainable Design classes co-led by Professors, Cat Normoyle and Hannah Park are working in conjunction with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team on a PSA (public service announcement) guerrilla campaign that promotes social sustainability by raising awareness of the concerning problem of gun violence in Memphis communities.

In 2011, 11 juveniles were shot and killed in Memphis. Another 14 were arrested and charged with murder. All 25 saw their lives and their families destroyed by a single bullet.

Innovate Memphis, Cited from the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team

In 2011, two-thirds of homicides in the U.S. involved a gun. Of the 242 in Tennessee, 126 were in the city of Memphis.

The Commercial Appeal, Gun Access Cited in Homicide Rise in Memphis by Kevin McKenzie

The students focused on youth and family in the community of Frayser, Memphis. They did research, including ride-alongs with MPD patrols and then worked on designs for the campaign. In an effort to avoid focusing on fear tactics, the students attempted to emphasize the alternatives of gun violence in conflict resolution. They then took these ideas out into communities to get feedback on which ideas resonated with community members.

The designs will be presented in the ‘Fight Gun Violence’ exhibition in the Rust Hall Main Gallery from Jan. 7 through Jan. 28.

Videographer: Dylan Rutherford
Advertising & Sustainable Design; Anti-gun violence Campaign
November 21, 2013
Photographers: Shelda Edwards, Lisa Fears, Carleigh Stratton

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Park(ing) Day 2012: A review

The morning started out stormy and rainy and I was a bit bummed about how it might effect Park(ing) Day in downtown Memphis. Fortunately for me, the sun burned through the clouds and it turned out to be a beautiful day.

“PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks,” according to information on their website. –

I arrived on the scene about 1pm. There was everything from live sculpture making, public jenga, and roller operas to cardboard cars,  adopted benches, and mobile swings. The range of creative ways to re imagine parking spaces was fantastic to see.

The event was held between 2nd and Front street on Peabody Place from 11am-6pm.. Below is an image gallery of my afternoon at the event.


Teaching & Student Work

Visiting Faculty Position at Memphis College of Art

After 13 years of living and working in Atlanta, an amazing opportunity to teach at Memphis College of Art (MCA) will relocate me to Tennessee for the next academic year.

Leaving Atlanta is not easy. Over the years, I have crossed paths with so many wonderful people that have all inspired and  influenced who I am today. I graduated undergrad from GT, worked at the marketing agency Trend Influence, pursued consulting and freelance gigs, taught undergraduate courses, showed work around town both in galleries and within the urban environment, wrote a thesis paper, graduated from GSU with my M.F.A… It’s been amazing!

I’ve been so lucky to experience these adventures and still, I can’t wait to join the faculty in Memphis and start meeting the community there.

A little about MCA (quoted from their website), “Founded in 1936, Memphis College of Art is a professional center of art and design education, dedicated to preparing individuals for lives of creating, problem solving and critical thinking. Small by choice and purpose, MCA is a cultural wellspring of creating, nurturing and educating artists of all levels. Located within 342-acre Overton Park, MCA offers state of the art facilities, excellent faculty, interdisciplinary programs and cutting edge exhibitions to the public and those pursuing BFA, MFA, MAT and MAArtEd degrees. It is one of only four independent, regionally and nationally accredited art colleges in the south and is the only one to offer graduate degrees.”

I will be teaching three courses this fall including drawing I, Design of Advertising, and Design Systems. As always, I will create blogs where folks can follow our daily musings and activities online.

See you in August!