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Mary McCravey

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Mary Katharine Knoblock Loyacono McCravey, 98, an iconic Mississippi artist, philanthropist and the recipient of the 2004 Mississippi Arts Commission's Governor's Excellence in the Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, died Friday, March 27, 2009, at S.E. Lackey Memorial Hospital in Forest of congestive heart failure.
Ott & Lee Funeral Home in Forest is in charge of arrangements. Visitation is scheduled tonight from 5-9 p.m. Funeral services will be held Monday, March 30, 2009, at 2 p.m. at the Forest United Methodist Church with interment in Eastern Cemetery in Forest. The Rev. Jamie Germany and Rev. Larry Patrick will officiate.
Mrs. McCravey's works were distinctive. A master of the use of light and shadow, Mrs. McCravey was recognized for her unique blend of impressionism and abstraction in otherwise traditional landscapes and still lifes that were almost exclusively done in warm hues.
She was born April 1, 1910, in Forest to Ruben Julius Knoblock and Mary Belle (Tillman) Knoblock. She first studied Art in her junior year of high school, 1926-1927,and later graduated in 1932 from Belhaven College in Jackson with majors in Art and Spanish.
But with the Great Depression affording her no opportunities to use her education after college, Mrs. McCravey worked with the Works Progress Administration establishing libraries in Scott County and was instrumental in the founding of the Forest Public Library. In 1937, the Jackson Public Schools began to offer art classes and McCravey accepted a position teaching Art at Enochs Junior High School. She later transferred to Central High School in Jackson where she taught until 1945.
She married Joseph Loyacono in 1945 and briefly left Jackson, but returned and transferred to Provine High School, where she taught until 1968.
Over the course of her career, Mrs. McCravey taught and inspired many of the state's most recognized and accomplished artists - including acclaimed artist, arts commentator and educator William Dunlap. Writing in support of Mrs. McCravey's nomination for the 2004 Governor's Award from the MAC, Dunlap said: "For the decade or so that I taught in colleges and universities, I very consciously patterned myself after my friend, this master artist and teacher, Mary Katherine Loyacono McCravey. What I learned from her was a most basic fact: art thrives in an environment made conducive to this highly personal and specialized activity, and artists need the company and good will of other artists. If art does indeed feed on other art, then (she) has been serving up sumptuous and nourishing dishes for decades and continues to do so."
Mrs. McCravey studied at the University of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Colorado, the Art Colony in Rockport at Cape Ann, Mass., and the Art Colony of Taos, N.M.
Her painting career began while she was teaching at Central High School and was invited by businessman Richard McRae to exhibit and sell her works along with those of other outstanding local artists at his newly built department store in the Meadowbrook area of Jackson.
She signed those early paintings "Loyacono" and, after the exhibit, went on to create paintings that were admired and sought after by her colleagues in the world of art and were in great demand by the general public as well which led to her works being featured in many exhibitions, one-woman shows.
The growing exposure of her paintings saw Mrs. McCravey's works grow in value and critical esteem in museums and in corporate, school, college, library and private collections across the South and the nation.
In 1968, her marriage to banker W.D. "Bill" McCravey led Mrs. McCravey back to Forest. From that point forward, she painted primarily for exhibits and donated her artwork to charitable fundraising events - raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for civic, charitable and educational causes in the process.
"Mr. Bill" McCravey preceded her in death in 1993. A sister, Doris Virginia Edmondson, also preceded her in death.
Her alma mater, Belhaven College, named Mrs. McCravey as the 1972 Belhaven "Alumnus of the Year."
In 1986, the Forest Area Chamber of Commerce honored the McCraveys as "Citizens of the Year." Mrs. McCravey continued to paint, usually daily, well into her '90s.
Survivors include a host of nieces and nephews; many loyal friends; and her five beloved cats.
Pallbearers will be T.E. "Gene" Walker, Scott Palmer, Allen Breland, Carl Fountain, Dr. Gayle Harrell and O.B. Triplett IV. Honorary pallbearers will be Bob Dunaway, Kenneth Quinn, Sam Gore and Charles Carmichael.
Published in Clarion Ledger on Mar. 29, 2009
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