Meet current SPSF NWA recipient McKenna Hussey and her 3-year-old daughter Frances (Frankie) Jo. McKenna is currently a junior at the University of Arkansas where she is majoring in Studio Art with an emphasis in ceramics and a secondary in photography. Read on to hear about McKenna’s journey as an SPSF NWA Scholar.

How did you choose your major?
I did everything in High School and I never felt like I really fit into any one group until I discovered art. I tried cheerleading, I played sports, I was in the marching band, and it wasn’t until my junior year that I took my first art class. I started working with ceramics my senior year, and I knew right away that I loved it and wanted to do it forever, but I was unsure how to make that happen. At first, teaching it seemed like the most financially stable option, but after going through the Studio Foundations Program at the University of Arkansas, I decided that having my own studio and small business was ultimately what I wanted and absolutely a possibility. In just the last year, I have learned how to use power saws and sanders in the woodshop, how to MIG weld, how to fire a ceramic kiln, how to mix clay and glazes from scratch, how to process film and print in the dark room, and so much more! My classes are an absolute joy to me, so I know that I made the right choice.

What made you decide to go back to school/go to school for the first time?
When I was pregnant, I thought obsessively about the future. I was certain I did not want to wait tables and work retail for all of eternity. I also knew for sure that I wanted to be an artist of some kind, so I decided that going back to art school was the most responsible direction for both of us. From there, everything fell into place!

How did you hear about SPSF NWA?
When I decided to go back to school, one of my family members suggested applying for the scholarship because it looked like a great opportunity. I’m so glad I did!

What has been your favorite parenting moment?
Frankie is starting to learn the lyrics to some of my favorite music, so we have been doing a lot of singing in the car lately. I love it when she asks me to play something, and I have to decipher which song it is by the phrase she gives me.

What is something that has surprised you about parenthood?
Frankie amazes me every day becoming the little human that she is. She’s so brave and tough, and very social! I am surprised by her fearlessness all the time.

Where do you like to hang out with your family in NWA?
We spend most of our free time here at home in Eureka Springs. We love to visit Lake Leatherwood and take walks downtown to the coffee shop and the library. In the summer time, we like to swim at Beaver Lake and shop at the local Farmer’s Market for something delicious to cook later. We love our small town in the Ozarks.

What has been your biggest challenge thus far balancing school and life?
I don’t always feel like the best mom I can be because I am constantly so busy with school and work. We don’t get to spend a lot of time doing the fun stuff between all the work and commuting during the semester. It’s hard, but I always keep in mind that this is temporary, summer break is coming, and it won’t always be this way. Our struggle now is for an awesome future, and that is something to look forward to.

Why do you value education?
Being educated is really what establishes my integrity as an artist. Without my education, I would have little knowledge of proper studio practice, how to operate all the equipment, and the potential of ceramics and photography as art mediums. My education is a resource and an outlet for practicing professionalism. It’s important to me to know how to make art that is technically sound and made well.

What does Frankie want to be when she grows up?
Frankie says she wants to be a cute dinosaur.

What do you enjoy most as a parent?
Frankie is always goofing around and being silly, and it’s my favorite because she reminds me not to take life so seriously all the time.

Other than financially, what impact has SPSF NWA made on your life?
Getting an education on top of everything else can be super overwhelming at times, but just being reminded that there are people out there who want me to succeed despite it all, and that there are other single parents facing and accomplishing similar struggles alongside me is so empowering! This organization makes me feel like anything is possible! SPSF has shown me that I am not alone.

How will life be different for you and your family after you graduate?
During the semester, I drive a little over an hour both ways to attend my classes every day, four days a week. When I’m not on campus, I work two part-time jobs on the weekends to pay the bills and buy groceries. When I have a degree, we won’t need to commute anymore, which will save us 10+ hours a week! By then, my goal is to work full-time from my home studio to sell my ceramics here locally, at seasonal craft fairs, and by commission. Frankie is going to make a fantastic little helper!

What would you like to say to SPSF NWA supporters?
Thank you for your belief in me to get my art degree! It truly means so much when I’m drowning in deadlines, dishes, bills, and laundry. Your support keeps us moving forward, and I’ll never forget what this organization has done for us!