MTSU faculty uses internal grant to showcase sculp...

MTSU faculty uses internal grant to showcase sculptures, provide student experience 

Middle Tennessee State University associate professor and artist Mark Mcleod’s exhibit “Cairns” will be hosted at Jacksonville University’s Alexandre Brest Gallery in Jacksonville, Florida, kicking off with a 5 p.m. reception on Thursday, Feb. 1, and open through Feb. 28. Mcleod used an internal MTSU grant to fund the project. (MTSU graphic illustration by Stephanie Wagner)

A Middle Tennessee State University art and design professor landed one of the university’s internal grants to create his upcoming solo exhibition that explores the fickle nature of memory and how it informs the present through sculpture. 

Associate professor and artist Mark Mcleod’s exhibit “Cairns” will be hosted at Jacksonville University’s Alexandre Brest Gallery in Jacksonville, Florida, kicking off with a 5 p.m. reception on Thursday, Feb. 1, and open through Feb. 28. The public can view the work and his process online through his website at

Mark Mcleod
Mark Mcleod

“My interest in memory stems from my own severe ADHD and a family history of dementia,” Mcleod said. “I learned about the possibility of funding through the MT-IGO grant from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programswebpage, and my colleague who previously received one, Doug Dabbs, offered me invaluable advice for a successful application.” 

The MT Internal Grant Opportunities, more commonly known as MT-IGO, provides seed funding for tenure and tenure-track faculty who are in the initial stages of embarking on a larger research or creative activity pathway to amplify their scholarship and make them more competitive when applying for external grants. 

“I was awarded $7,451 through the grant,” said the Sumter, South Carolina, native. “It covers the cost of materials, production and shipping and hiring a student worker to help with the project…. The MT-IGO awards and the support that comes along with the award is a tremendous asset to the professional development of faculty.”  

Caroline Yates
Caroline Yates

Caroline Yates, a junior majoring in art history, earned the spot as Mcleod’s student worker upon application and a recommendation from her sculpture professor. 

“I’ve learned a lot under Mark about craft, developing concepts and editing those concepts to produce the best results,” said the Spring Hill, Tennessee, native who transferred to MTSU last year. “He is incredibly detail oriented and has some wonderful perspectives on what art is and could be in an academic setting.” 

Yates, who aspires to be a museum or gallery curator, said the opportunity has been an invaluable experience.

“He’s (Mcleod) really helped me consider all the paths open to me, both academically and professionally,” she said. “The advice he’s given me is going to be indispensable on my journey into the art history field.”

Mcleod, who joined the MTSU faculty four years ago, said discussion about the exhibit in partnership with Jacksonville University began a year ago. He crafted the sculptures with Yates in his studio for the “Cairns” exhibit — named after the markers on hiking trails that indicate milestones — using technology such as 3D printers, laser cutters and more. 

“I hope that students will see the software I’m using … and realize that what they may already be familiar with in a digital environment can also exist in an analog space as a physical object,” Mcleod said. “I’m also very open about my own mental health issues, specifically severe ADHD and short-term memory loss. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile when a student sees their own struggles in my work.”

Learn more about the MT-IGO grant at Learn more about the opportunities at the Department of Art and Design at

— Stephanie Wagner (