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Melissa Nelson’s artwork to be featured at MCC

The artworks of Melissa Nelson will be on display Feb. 27 through Mar. 29 in the Ray Frederick Gallery at Marshalltown Community College. Some of the artworks in Nelson’s exhibit will be available for purchase.

Union native and Marshalltown Community College Alum Melissa Nelson will be the next featured artist in the Ray Frederick Gallery on the MCC campus. Her exhibit, entitled “Unfinished/Finished: Art as an Art Teacher,” opens with a reception from 12:15 to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and will be on display through noon Friday, Mar. 29.

Nelson is a resident of New Hampton and has been teaching art at New Hampton High School for the past five years.

“Professor Tim Castle at MCC really helped me begin the (LONG!) journey to where I’m at today,” says Nelson. “I took a required art class, and I enjoyed the class so much that I continued to take art classes along with my psychology classes. I was a student at MCC for a lot longer than I really should have been, because I worked at Lennox for 10 years. After MCC I went to the University of Northern Iowa to double major in Art and Psychology, and a few years after that I realized I wasn’t happy working where I was. I went back to UNI to get my Art Education degree and I have been teaching since. I’m really looking forward to ‘coming home’ as an artist to the place that I first exhibited my work as a student!”

For her upcoming show at MCC, Nelson has been collecting work that is both finished and unfinished, which reflects her philosophy as an art educator. “When teaching my students, I rarely finish a piece of artwork as an example. All too often, I see that people view artwork as ‘magic’ and believe that it’s totally talent-based, and without that ‘magic talent’ someone can’t be an artist. When it’s seen in that light, all the hours, months, and years of practice and experiences of the artist are diminished. I try to get my students to understand that hard work and practice can get you more than talent … this leads to trying to have the rest of the world understand the work of the artist.”

When she was student-teaching at UNI, Nelson said she quickly realized that if she showed her students a sample of work that was completely finished, her students’ works ended up looking just like hers. “I want to promote my students’ own creative solutions to their work, so I only do enough to demonstrate the skills they need to finish the project. The students then need to finish solving the artistic problem of the artwork.”

Nelson claims to be a “jack-of-all-trades” when it comes to making artwork. “I teach many different media, so you’ll see a lot of different works in my exhibit. It may look like I have no true media, but my media really is teaching. I’m inspired by my students, my fellow art educators online and in person, and by all that happens around me. While my emphasis in college was sculpture and printmaking, I will do or try almost anything that I think my students need and/or want to try. I believe that every person in the world is creative … we just need to be exposed to something that can spark that creative spirit within us.”

Recently Nelson decided that she wanted to be able to teach dual credit art classes for college credit, so she’s almost finished with a Master’s Degree in Art Education; she will receive that degree in May.

“As part of my graduate studies, I’ve been working with groups of my high school students to teach them how to curate art shows, so they will be helping to curate this show of my work at MCC,” Nelson explains. “My students have seen me work, they’ve seen what I get excited about, and they have been part of my creative process as an artist and teacher. Their involvement in helping to curate this show plays into my philosophy as an art educator. It’s the kind of experience that very few high school students get to enjoy.”

The Ray Frederick Gallery, located in room 306, is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm.; please note that the gallery will be closed the week of Mar. 11-15 while the College is shut down for Spring Break. For more information contact MCC Art Professor Tim Castle at 641-844-5776 or

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