Oxford alumna joins art department


photo courtesy of MSSU.edu

Taylor Moon, assistant art professor.

by Victoria Gaytan

When Taylor Moon applied to the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University, little did she know that nine months later, she would be an assistant professor of graphic design at Missouri Southern. New to the position, she expressed excitement for her career in teaching.

 As a Los Angeles resident throughout her life, Moon has been on an accelerated career in art in her higher education. As an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she double majored in studio art and art history with emphases in studio art and media technology, and museum studies, respectively.

During her undergraduate experience, she worked and interned at local galleries, and even got to exhibit works at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. She also had an internship with the J. Paul Getty Museum in LA, working in their marketing department where she made animations and GIFs.

Moon graduated from UCSB a year early, and spent what would have been her fourth year as an undergraduate student applying for graduate schools, she applied to many schools, including Duke University, the University of California, Santa Cruz and Oxford.

She chose Oxford because it had the most accelerated program, which she would find beneficial both financially and career-wise. Additionally, it would allow her experience studying abroad.

“It was a cool experience to live somewhere entirely different, on a different time zone, and live and study there,” Moon said.

While there, she also got some travel grants to visit places such as Vienna, Austria and Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Ruskin School of Art at Oxford is a nine-month program. Moon said it is very self-directed and open-ended. She selected her own project and chose what concept to explore, what medium to use and what to write about it. To her, the program was unique and niche.

In the program, professors are known as tutors, lessons are tutorials, and students do not know their grade until the end.

“It was very motivating in the sense of being able to not be told by a professor at every juncture what to be turning in,” Moon said. She found it nice that it emphasized being able to pursue academic research more independently and to have it be assessed by world renowned experts in the field.

During the program, she created an immersive space using wooden sculptures cut out by computer numerical control (CNC) machines and a five-minute animation showcasing cheerleading techniques as a metaphor for psychology The animation was paired with spoken word poetry.

She chose the topic because she was a cheerleader for several years, including while at high school and as a student at UCSB.

“Individual parts of the brain have roles and how they compensate for one another and how it’s a sort of balancing act to maintain this emotional equilibrium,” she said. “Day to day, you enact cognitive flexibility so you’re enacting these roles that are similar to cheerleading in the sense that physical flexibility and balance, and person to person teamwork can be reflected in that cohesion and teamwork that happens within the brain.”

While cheerleading and the brain are two very different things, the fluidity of animation and poetry united them in her work. She said even though there are so many facets to a team, it has symmetry and unity to it so that its parts work in sync, similarly to how the brain has so many roles to play for the body but it acts as one.

“Mental health is a topic that’s very important to me and I feel like it pertains to everybody,” Moon said. “As I was assessing operating emotional factors in my own life and in the lives of people around me, I wanted to understand it better, and the best way that I could was through making comparisons and similarities, which is where the metaphor comes from.”

Moon graduated from the program on July 1, and things turned around quickly for her. She got a plane ride home, drove cross-country, and arrived in Joplin by July 14, with a faculty tour on August 1.

Moon is very excited about what Southern has to offer. She also enjoys the company of the other faculty. They occasionally go out for lunch, and other professors give her advice on things such as applying for conferences or grants for international trips.

“[Taylor] has a really strong approach and focus on community outreach with her design work,” said Ed Outhouse, assistant professor of graphic design. “We found that attractive for our design program here.”

While last year, Outhouse was the only full-time design faculty, he said it will be nice to have another professor in the department.

“It’s really important for the growth and development of our program so that our students get the education that they deserve, with two faculty teaching design, rather than just one,” he said.

“I anticipate that Taylor’s involvement with our design program will add a lot more energy and enthusiasm, not just from her work, but also by engaging with our students.”

Moon’s arrival has been well-received by students so far.

Junior graphic design major Apollo* said that Moon works with him and other students to understand the coursework and encourages asking questions.

“She’s enthusiastic about what she’s teaching and I get the sense that she wants her students to be just as excited as she is,” Apollo said. “She’s more than willing to help students with any aspect of the class and often spends time helping students even after class ends.

“Taylor is very personable and wants to understand the ideas of her students to help them turn those ideas into finished projects.”

“[Teaching is] honestly the best job ever,” Moon said. She enjoys how engaged her students are loves seeing their commitment to working outside of class. She said she hopes to be able to give them direction that she wished she had when she was young and looking for her next step.