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Local Russellvillian Creating Her Own Path In The World

For anyone who has lived in Russellville for any amount of time, there is one thing we can all agree on - Russellville has no shortage of talent. Whether it is music, art, photography, or countless other things, Russellville sits high on the talent shelf.

Growing up in Russellville and attending the local high school, Rachel Trusty is the perfect example of a true Russellvillian. She attended UCA where she majored in Art Education and graduated with her BA in 2006. In 2009, she then attended the Art Institute of Boston where she graduated with her Masters in Fine Arts in 2011. For most of her career she has been an art teacher. From teaching in public schools to teaching college-level classes, she has inspired and connected with many minds during her career. She is currently the gallery coordinator for the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock where she works in their galleries to put on exhibitions and create programming. It goes without saying that she loves every bit of it.

Lucky for us, Rachel let us have a glimpse into her greatest work of art thus far - her life.

Offbeat: Who inspired you to pursue art and how long have you been “an artist?"

Rachel: "I have always enjoyed making things. When I was very little, my mother sewed clothes for her and I, and also made things for the house. I spent a lot of time playing and making things in the sewing room at night while she worked. She taught me to sew, crochet, and knit at a young age. I remember the first thing I ever bought with my allowance was a children’s book of how-to for crafting, which I still have.

I loved drawing as well. I liked the challenge of looking at an image and trying to replicate it. I would do this with coloring books and later would copy pictures from my encyclopedia set. I’m sure friends loved sleeping over at my house because I would make them watch Bette Midler movies and draw from the encyclopedias (I’ve always been really cool).

Drawing was my main focus through my first couple of years of college. Later in college, I became intrigued with newer media – performance, installation – conceptual based art making. I switched my emphasis to that and haven’t looked back! That’s what I focused on in Grad School as well."

Offbeat: And we're glad you didn't look back. Do you feel that Russellville was conducive to your artistic ambitions? If not, what would have helped foster the artistic community?

Rachel: "I loved growing up in Russellville. My mother enrolled me in classes at the Arkansas River Valley Arts Center pretty young. I met Winston Taylor there – he is their artist in residence – he has always been supportive and encouraging to me. I remember when I drew this self-portrait thing in the 5th grade, he made a point to come up and compliment me on it. That meant the world to me. I highly recommend taking ceramics classes from him.

I continued to attend the ARVAC through high school and then in my later high school years I worked and volunteered there. I have always felt welcome and a part of that organization.

As I mention later, Max Hines at the high school was also a huge help to me, especially getting me to college.

I never found a lack of inspiration here. When we were in high school, there was that coffee shop downtown that had music shows. I always loved going there. I felt like I grew up with many creative people.

I am so glad we have the Art Walk now and that it is expanding. I love the music festival that happened this month. We have some galleries. The Art Center is still going. The more people do, the better it will be. Young people need to see art in action. They need to have opportunities. We need to have public art – murals and sculpture – in the community, visible. The more the community adds (and allows) the better. Creative people like to dream and I feel that a community can do certain things to allow for dreaming and creating. It can choose to be a conducive environment for creative growth. I want that for Russellville. I feel like there are some things in place, but it could be better. I’m so excited to see what you and some other people are doing now to foster that."

Offbeat: It is definitely an exciting time for the community! What advice would you offer young artists who want to follow their dreams of becoming the next best artists?

Rachel: "No idea is dumb. I have had SO MANY ideas that I put on the back burner and then a year or more later, someone else does them and it’s a hit. Make everything you think up - even if it is bad. It will get you somewhere and you will learn something. Things that I tried a long time ago come back now. Materials I experimented with or themes that I explored. It all builds – all of it.

Pay attention to art history. You are not making things in a vacuum. There is a history to everything. It is important that you know the story or tradition to the materials or themes you are working with. Building on history and art history gives your work legitimacy and a foundation.

Pay attention to detail. Make good work that is very well done. You don’t want it to fall apart on the wall. Learn how to get things properly framed or mounted or presented. Think about presentation in the beginning. You need to show your work and get it out there. In order to do that, your work needs to be ready. You need to learn about the business of art, not just how to make art.

Be nice to everyone because they will come back around. You will need all those connections. I am so excited now that I am in my 30’s to see all the people I grew up with being successful. I love partnering with them and encouraging them in their business, as they do with me. We all need each other.

You can make something from nothing. If you have an idea – dream big. You are the only one limiting yourself. Look for people to partner with to help you to make things happen – they are out there. Don’t be discouraged! Keep trying!"

Offbeat: Who are some inspirations for you artistically, either locally or internationally?

Rachel: "There are so many.

My family has been a huge support. Maybe some parents would cringe when their child said they would be an art major, but mine was proud. My mother comes to all of my art shows. My extended family supports me, too. I can’t imagine doing all that I do without them cheering me on.

Taylor at the Arkansas River Valley Arts Center here in Russellville was always super supportive. Max Hines, my art teacher at Russellville High, was very supportive. Beyond teaching me a good amount about art and art history, he went the extra mile for me and helped me take slides of all my work and apply to a scholarship for art at UCA (which I got). I would not have applied for that without him.

At UCA, Liz Smith was my contemporary mixed media professor. She changed how I looked at art completely. I learned a new way to make and plan. I feel her course and her mentor-ship shaped me the most on how I approach art. In grad school, Holly Laws was a mentor. She is also a professor at UCA. She helped me deepen the way I understand materials. She is very precise and helped me to be more technical and to flesh out what I’m doing. She was a great encourager. Laurel Sparks was another artist mentor in grad school. She really pushed me, especially in my writing about art.

Dr. Jeff Young, the art department chair at UCA, continues to mentor me with my career choices. Barbara Satterfield, another former professor at UCA, has been a huge help recently as I navigate through museum work and creating exhibitions. I am part of a great group of women called “Culture Shock.” We are all working in the arts. It is amazing to have people around now to continue to critique your work. Once you are out of school, you are a bit isolated and it is harder to make and look critically at what you are making. You need other eyes. Plus, they are an endless resource for materials. The women in the group all work with different materials. If you need to know how to do something or what to use – someone there has used it before.

Some artist’s I love: Marcel Duchamp, Cindy Sherman, Judy Chicago, Maxfield Parish, Gustav Klimt, Egon Shiele, Ann Hamilton, Cesare Pietroiusti…there are too many."

Offbeat: When you started the Delta des Refusés did you have a goal in mind or were you just hoping for the best?

Rachel: I thought of it sitting at my desk at work after I got my rejection email from the Delta last year. It was a funny thought, but then I really considered it. I put some feelers out there and people were on board. It was a risk, but I was willing to organize it and see what happened. The Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library agreed to host us, which was amazing because that has led to a great job there for me. We had 44 people participate last year. I considered it very successful seeing that it was new and people were unsure what to think.

Offbeat: It's incredible that you've already doubled the participants in your second year. What are your plans for Delta des Refusés in the future?

Rachel: "I expect the Delta des Refusés to continue to grow. Next year we will probably use two venues in the same area so visitors can walk between the two. I’m brainstorming more promotional ideas to do for our artists throughout the show. The show had a lot of participation this year so I learned about management and planning. I have a nice list for myself to use next year of 'do’s and don’ts.' I would really like to reach out to more of the state next year. We have large participation from the Central Arkansas area, but the Refusés is for all of the artists who weren’t accepted – that means people in other states. I need to strategize about how to reach them as well."

Offbeat: Now for the big question... If you had an artistic super power- what would it be?

Rachel: "I would be able to project the idea in my mind out so other people could see it. It can be haphazard when you are trying to explain an idea or project to someone. So if I could just project my mental image of it out, that would help with understanding."


To check out more on Rachel and the Delta des Refuses check out these websites: &

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