Visual arts school brings color to Murphysboro

After years of educational experience and a love for many different forms of art, one Murphysboro woman will open a school geared toward the betterment of both young and old artisans.

Rachel Malcolm-Ensor came into the art game later than most others. After a stroke at the age of 40, Ensor decided it was a good time to pursue a degree in commercial design, which ultimately led her to fine art and eventually a master’s degree in art history and a Ph.D.  She said she has given back as best she could ever since then.

Ensor said she created the Burton School for the Visual Arts near downtown Murphysboro because of that need to give back.

“I’ve taught art history and I’ve taught history and I’ve taught in West Africa,” she said. “I just have this compass of knowledge that I think I can share with people.”

The school’s mission, Ensor said, is to dedicate itself to offering high-quality, non-degree art instruction for every-level learning to provide the community with opportunities to explore the world of visual arts through practice, instruction and discussion with established artists. This sort of instruction may be crucial to children who look to pursue art in Murphysboro because the art program at Carruthers elementary was removed, she said.

Ensor will start with one group of five students who will take one of three classes: Drawing from Art, Drawing Techniques and Still Life Drawing. Each of these 12-week classes cost $240 per semester. The classes begin Sept. 13 and run until Dec. 6.

There will also be a live-model drawing every Wednesday evening, and Ensor said anyone 18 or older can come and learn for a day for $25.

Private lessons can also be taken if a student wants more attention. The $120 weekly private lessons will last for two hours and run for one month.

Ensor said she expects mainly older students — 50 and above — to take her classes, but she does have a younger student in one class and likes to see a variety of students involved.

While this school wasn’t created to remove students from SIUC art classrooms, this can be a great opportunity for Carbondale students to take additional classes to build on skills already established.

“If I would impact (SIUC art students) at all, there might be something I could offer them like the opportunity to draw a live model once a week,” Ensor said. “Like I said, I also do private lessons, so if there’s something a student is having a problem with and they need some focus I could help with that. I’m not thinking about taking away from SIU.”

Joni Beth Bailey, Murphysboro attorney for 28 years, said the school could offer the city more than just a chance for its residents to become art savvy, as well.

Bailey said towns with a strong art district can be quite successful and can help make older towns become a destination for tourists.

“If Murphysboro doesn’t do something like that, it’s going to be just a bunch of boarded up, poorly utilized store fronts and that will damage the whole community,” Bailey said.

Cynthia Roth, lecturer in communication design and Murphysboro resident, said there is a need for economic development in Murphysboro, and she thinks this school may bring it.

“I’m just really happy that Rachel chose Murphysboro as the location to establish her school, and I’m glad she decided to move there when she did and teach at SIU,” Roth said.

She also said she knows Rachel has wanted to start a school like this for a while, and she is more than prepared to teach both young and old artists.

“When she takes on a project, she gets extremely serious about it. she doesn’t do anything halfway,” Roth said. “I think that Rachel will be one of those people who help younger students, such as middle school and high school students, gain confidence and learn fundamental skills.”

Ensor said one reason she feels compelled to teach even further is because of the amount of kindness and guidance she was given in her search for knowledge.

“I think part of the reason I’m doing this is that when I went back to school a lot of people gave to me,” she said. “They helped me; they supported me going to school. When I was in grad school, the University of Missouri gave me every scholarship hands down that they could give and I’ve known all along that I was going to have to give back.”

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at or 536-3311 ext.252.

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