Corrie Parker McCallum was born in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1914. As a child, her first acts of creative expression came during early years spent in bed recovering from tuberculosis. She would draw illustrations for stories her uncle would read to her. Sumter, didn't offer much in the way of art education, even though her cousin, Elizabeth White was a well-known artist, who also lived in Sumter. McCallum didn't receive any art instruction until her family moved to Tampa, FL, where an art teacher traded lessons in exchange for her sitting as a model. After five years, the family returned to Sumter, where there was still no form of art education. McCallum wouldn't receive formal training again until she set off to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. It was at USC where she first met her future husband and fellow artist, William Melton Halsey. McCallum was at USC from 1932-36. The university's art department at that time didn't offer much of a challenge, but the experience of being with other like-minded artists was stimulating. McCallum and Halsey became inseparable, feeling that they were the only two students who were a match for each other artistically.
Unfortunately, by 1934 Halsey had completed everything he was interested in from USC and decided to return to his hometown of Charleston, SC, to practice his art. McCallum remained at USC and the two artists would not study art together again until several years after they both moved on to the Boston Museum School of Fine Art. During this time in Columbia, 1935, McCallum's art career would take a turn, again due to bed-rest as a result of an appendicitis attack. The artist would pass the time in bed drawing and doodling. A physician noticed her work and before she knew it she was being coaxed into becoming a medical illustrator spending time in operating rooms drawing surgical procedures. In fact, she remained at USC to take the required pre-med courses for entry into Johns Hopkins. Then in 1936, McCallum was offered an opportunity to direct a gallery space for the WPA/Federal Art Project. This opportunity would be a one year paid position, so McCallum left her studies at the University to become an art administrator. This job would eventually lead to the artist's first experience as an arts educator. The job called for McCallum to set up an art gallery and organize contemporary art exhibitions showing works of local and regional artists. While building an audience for the exhibits, she got the idea of using the gallery to introduce public school children to the arts.
In the fall of 1935, William Halsey had decided to continue his art studies at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, one of the best, if not the best art school in America at that time. McCallum and Halsey had continued their relationship by correspondence and after the one year position was up with the WPA, she joined her fellow student at the Boston school, where she received a full scholarship based on her drawings. It was there that the two students finally got the challenge they were looking for. Art students were required to draw for three hours every day and paint for two. Art history was taught by professors from Harvard University. In 1938, McCallum got her first experience as a museum educator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which was across the street from the school. She assisted in teaching art to children. During this time, McCallum and Halsey's relationship continued to grow. In 1939 Halsey won the James William Paige Traveling Fellowship. This was the school's highest award which would provide two years of study and travel abroad. The couple decide to get married and travel and study together. But, Europe in 1939 was a volatile environment with the pending outbreak of World War II. Halsey was part Jewish making European travels at the time even more dangerous. The fellowship was rescheduled for studies in Mexico, a pivotal change in the two artists' lives.
Mexico provided the two artists with a totally different cultural experience, a more primitive experience where the two traveled the countryside drawing and painting. But, in Jan. of 1940, McCallum's career as an artist would take another sharp turn. The couple's first child was born, Eleanor Paige Halsey, named in honor of the fellowship providing their travels in Mexico. At this point McCallum would no longer be just a fellow artist and wife, but also mother, which put dramatic pressures on her ability to create art. Raising a child in a foreign country was not easy and in 1941, the fellowship money ran out. The couple returned to the U.S. to live in Charleston which would become their life-long "base of operations" even though their travels were just begining.
In 1942, Halsey accepted a position as Director of the School of Art, Telfair Academy and as an art instructor at the Pape School in Savannah, GA. The couple were both making a living teaching art in Savannah. World War II came to the United States in Dec. of 1942 and by 1943, Halsey had to take a job as a timekeeper at the Southeastern Shipyard in Savannah. On May 26, 1944, McCallum gave birth to the couple's second child, David Ashley Halsey. With two young children and teaching art on the side it was getting even harder for McCallum to have time to create art. By 1945, the growing family headed back to Charleston. On Feb. 21, 1949, the couple's third and final child, Louise McCallum Halsey was born. Raising three children and being a wife meant sacrifices for McCallum, but they were sacrifices she was willing and happy to make. Between the family and teaching art, productivity at times was at a minimum, but McCallum has said they provided great personal satisfaction.
During the next four decades, McCallum would hold a variety of teaching positions at the Charleston School of Art (which she founded with husband William Halsey and fellow artist Williard Hirsch the sculptor), Newberry College in SC, The Telfair Academy in GA, and the Gibbes Art Gallery in Charleston (now the Gibbes Museum of Art). At the same time, she was having major exhibits in places like Charleston, Boston and Zurich, as well as participating in group exhibits throughout the region and country. In 1960, McCallum became the Gibbes Art Gallery's first professional Curator of Art Education, bringing art to over 20,000 children in public schools yearly. In 1971, she accepted a position at the College of Charleston where she taught for eight years and helped establish the fine art print department. If all this wasn't enough to keep this artist, wife and mother busy, McCallum helped found the Guild of South Carolina Artists in 1950. This gave South Carolina artists a professional support organization by setting high standards for membership and exhibitions. But McCallum's biggest challenge would come in 1968 when she would leave all this behind for a personal journey.
As the children grew older, McCallum and her husband made yearly summer travels to points around the globe such as: Europe, Africa, South America and many times back to Mexico. But in 1968, she received a grant from the Hughes Scientific and Cultural Foundation, based in Charleston, which would send her on a solo trip to exotic spots around the world to places like: India, Iran, Bali and many others. She picked up a bug in Cambodia and fought off her sickness through six different countries. It wasn't until she had a fever of 106 degrees in Austria that she had to finish the trip two weeks early. A woman traveling alone in third-world countries in the late 1960's was quite a challenge, but it was a trip she had to make - she had to prove to herself she could do it. And that she did! The trip also presented years of inspiration.
By 1979, it was time for retirement from teaching. The children were grown with families of their own and McCallum the artist was free to create. And create she did! She and her husband worked every day in their separate studios. In 1994-95, the Gibbes Museum of Art presented the exhibition, "Corrie McCallum: A Life in Art," which was a major retrospective featuring painting, prints and sculpture. At the age of 80, McCallum was still producing work on a daily basis. In 1997, she had a book of her poetry and prints published. That same year she had an exhibition of recent monotypes at the College of Charleston in the gallery named after her husband along with North Carolina artist, Herb Jackson, whom she met on one of her regular printmaking pilgrimages to the Impressions workshop in Boston. The works from that exhibit later traveled to the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC, where her education in the arts began. For more information on McCallum's education and exhibitions, click here.
On Feb. 14, 1999 at the age of 84, McCallum
lost her life-long partner to a sudden illness. Although it was
a devastating loss, as with every other challenge handed to McCallum,
she took on the future as another adventure which must be
faced head on and creatively. McCallum died March 2, 2009.
David Halsey 843-813-7542 firstname.lastname@example.org
Paige Halsey Slade 904-223-8418 PSlade@alumnae.brynmawr.edu
Louise McCallum Halsey 501-650-5090 email@example.com or at www.louisehalsey.com
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