By Annie Rhoades
Art is a hobby for some and a profession for others, but for alumna Ivey Swan (BS 15) it’s her life’s mission.
“When I was in the eighth grade, I decided I wanted to create a character named Artie who is a personified paintbrush,” Swan said. “My grandmother was an author, and I really wanted to write a children’s book series about the arts and inform kids about the importance of the arts and how they can become passionate about something that’s bigger than themselves. But as an eighth grader it’s a little difficult to get a book published.”
A native of Hattiesburg, Swan spent her childhood actively participating in dancing, singing and visual arts. She soon realized that the arts were more than a hobby and turned her passion into a tool to encourage children and adults to express their feelings in creative ways.
“Artie is a paintbrush figure who paints, sings, dances, plays musical instruments and loves all forms of art,” Swan said. “Children are so visual and that’s something they can relate to and remember. He loves to be a part of his community and his state and attend as many art-related events as possible.”
Swan thought the perfect place for Artie to make his debut was at Festival South, her hometown’s multi-genre arts festival. With the event primarily catering to adults, she thought an appeal to children through art was a perfect fit.
“Artie has been branded Festival South’s children’s event for the past seven years, and that’s kind of been my starting point,” she said. “It was my way to get the message across that the arts are smart – that’s my slogan. The arts are smart for people and places.”
With Artie firmly established in Hattiesburg, Swan set her sights on a broader presence for the character. She graduated from Presbyterian Christian School in 2011 and enrolled at Ole Miss the following fall to pursue a degree in journalism.
“I always knew I wanted to go to Ole Miss,” Swan said. “Both of my parents graduated from Southern Miss, so I kind of wanted to branch out and do my own thing and get away from home.”
A member of Kappa Delta Sorority, Swan majored in integrated marketing communications in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
“It was a really good fit for me, because it really encompassed everything that I was interested in,” said Swan. “That’s why I didn’t want to pick just journalism or marketing. Being an IMC major you’re kind a jack of all trades.”
Between her studies Swan found time to take Artie all over the state as well as Tennessee, Georgia and Boston to spread her message about the importance of the arts.
On March 24, 2016, she debuted a life-size version of Artie at the Mississippi State Capitol as part of arts lobby day.
“That was probably the most special time for Artie and I because we got to be partnered with the Mississippi Arts Commission and be in the committee meeting with Gov. Phil Bryant (79) and the first thing he said was, ‘I want to get my picture taken with Artie!’”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree last spring, Swan decided to take a year off from pursuing a career in public relations to train for the upcoming 2016 Miss Mississippi pageant held June 22-25.
“This will be my third and final year competing, so I decided to devote a full year to focusing on that instead of being distracted,” she said. “It’s really hard to get ready for something like that and be in college or have a full-time career.”
Swan sees a bright future for herself and her sidekick. With several new opportunities in the works for Artie, she’s optimistic that her message will reach a much larger audience.
“I can’t say that I expect a career to come of this, but what I tell people when I try to build partnerships is that I’m not looking for money,” Swan said. “It would be great to be paid for this, but my sole mission is to make an impact on someone. I can find a career elsewhere. I keep telling people I’m going to be the next Jim Henson, so who knows maybe that will be my career path.”
More information on Swan and Artie can be found at artieforthearts.com.