If there’s one thing that can be said about the namesake of Marnée’s Studio near the Loop it’s that she’s determined to do things her way. It’s in the portmanteau on her sign.
“My name was Margaret Renee but it never really suited me and this is the name I should have always been called by. I legally changed it,” Marnée Edwards said.
Open less than a year, the gallery at 2353 Airport Blvd. is earning a reputation for concern far beyond its doors. Edwards has plenty of causes she’s ready to help.
“I’ve done some benefit paint parties for the Manatee Sighting Network. Right before Thanksgiving, we did a food drive for the food bank. I want to be very involved in the community,” Edwards said.
That includes area schools. When Edwards discovered all the art programs at Mary B. Austin Elementary School were funded not by official funds but by their PTA, she raised money.
The next incarnation is an April 21 fundraiser for Mobile Baykeeper called “Naturally Inspired.” The deadline for entry in the juried exhibition is April 13, with more information available at marneestudio.com.
“In a month or two I want to start a couple of programs with the goal in mind of merging arts with the sciences. I’ve gradually started designing classes with that theme in mind. We have a beginner’s drawing right now for adults that’s ‘Drawing the Delta,’” Edwards said.
Evidence of Edwards’ moxie was evident early. Her initial charitable effort last June involved a somewhat controversial women’s health organization. Edwards insisted she is upfront with everyone about her causes so intentions are clear.
“If an event is for Planned Parenthood or the food bank or Mobile Baykeeper, it’s always publicized and tied to that very specific event. It’s not like I’m running a whole bunch of fundraisers and dividing the funds among various organizations,” Edwards said.
She mentioned Penelope House as a worthwhile organization. Another goal is aid for victims of sex trafficking.
“They just opened up the Rose Home here, that’s a safe house for sex trafficking victims. The organization is Eye Heart World and I want to partner with them in some way. There’s also a gallery in India that helps rescue women in sex trafficking there and I’d like to take up some of their efforts,” Edwards said.
In Mobile only four years, Edwards has seized her intent with gusto. She isn’t shocked.
“I’m from the southern tip of Texas near Mexico and Brownsville. It was very culturally diverse and I never realized how much that shaped my personality and who I am today but it definitely did,” Edwards said.
The proximity to the water also stayed with her. Edwards said she started college as a fine arts major, earned her bachelor’s in biology from Louisiana State University Shreveport, then her master’s in environmental science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
“I did my graduate research at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab under Ruth Carmichael. My particular research was with oysters so I’m very interested in oyster reef restoration efforts. I plan on reaching out to see if maybe I could offer paintings or raise funds somehow to help out,” Edwards said.
She rekindled her creative pursuits about four years ago. When the Downtown Mobile Alliance wanted a donated piano artistically refinished to roll out for public use, Edwards landed the job.
“It was an interesting project, very much in the public eye where I met some very interesting members of our community. People wanted to help with, like, the sanding process and other things and actually watch me paint it. It was a really cool experience,” Edwards said.
DMA’s Carol Hunter gave her a reference for a Bellingrath Gardens project which Edwards credits with raising her profile. There, she joined forces with artist Ben Kaiser, who remains a part of her world as an exhibiting artist at Marnée’s Studio.
“We’ve also got Lisa Hancock, who teaches classes, too. We’ve got a Lebanese artist, Mayssam Iskandar, an artist from the Ukraine, about seven of us altogether,” Edwards said.
While downtown has become a hot spot for similar pursuits, Edwards is satisfied with her locale farther west. She thinks parking availability is a major bonus.
“This place resonated with me. It has unique windows, lots of natural light. I feel my business and mission statements are very well aligned with midtown,” Edwards said.
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