Robin McDonald is the Leeds Arts Council’s featured artist in October. The public is invited to the opening reception on October 2, 2016, 1:30-3:30 pm, to view his delightful photographs of Leeds. Admission is free.
Robin is English by birth, born in Beckenham, a suburb of London, in 1951. He emigrated to America at the age of 12, and after 3 years in Philadelphia, moved to Alabama with his parents in 1966. He has lived here ever since. After receiving a BA cum laude in art history at Emory University, he attended Columbia University on a graduate fellowship, receiving an MA in art history in 1973. While in New York, Robin became interested in photography, and decided to pursue art and photography as a career rather than academia. He returned to Birmingham, and by a stroke of fortune, despite having no formal training, was hired as an artist at a small Birmingham ad agency where he worked for three years before moving to a larger agency, and then a photographic studio, finally forming Triad Studios, a graphic design and photography studio, with two other photographers in 1977. In 1979, he was hired away from Triad to become the art director of Horizon Magazine, a well-known national arts magazine that had just been purchased and moved to Tuscaloosa. Robin spent five years working at Horizon, during which time he received a gold award and a bronze award from the New York Art Directors Club. In 1980, he won Best in Show at the first (and only) Greater Birmingham Arts Alliance Juried Photography Exhibition.
In 1984, Robin left Horizon and returned to Birmingham to start his own independent graphic design and photography studio, now in its 32nd year. Robin and his wife Debbie Bennett purchased a house in the woods off Bailey Road near Leeds in 1986, and Robin has operated his business there ever since. Debbie, who is very active in the Leeds community, currently serves as a librarian at the Leeds Jane Culbreth Library, and both serve on the board of the Leeds Historical Society.
In 1991, Robin became the designer and principal photographer for Alabama Heritage Magazine, published jointly by the University of Alabama, UAB, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The Spring 2016 issue of Alabama Heritage was Robin’s 100th. The magazine has been recognized by the CASE awards for academic publications a number of times, both regionally and nationally. Robin’s other principal client is Clairmont Press in Atlanta, a company that publishes state history school textbooks for almost all of the southeastern states. Robin has designed all of their books, with a single exception, since 1985. He has also designed many books for the University of Alabama Press, including both editions of The Crimson Tide by Winston Groom, Alabama Architecture by Alice Meriwether Bowsher, and Headwaters by Beth Maynor Young and John C. Hall.
Robin is the author of two books, Heart of a Small Town: Photographs of Alabama Towns (2003) and Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama (2015), co-authored by Valerie Pope Burnes. Both were published by the University of Alabama Press.
Robin has participated in two exhibitions at the Georgine Clarke Gallery of the Alabama State Council for the Arts, both featuring photographs from Visions of the Black Belt. The second exhibition, also featuring photographs by Jerry Siegel and Chip Cooper, traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy this summer as part of a cultural exchange program with the city of Montgomery. Robin is also represented in the collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.
Robin plans to spend his impending retirement photographing the landscapes and townscapes of Alabama. This small exhibition features photographs of some of the familiar architecture of Leeds, all taken in 2016.
Mr. McDonald’s work will be on exhibit through November 3, 2016.
The Arts Center is located at 8140 Parkway Drive, in downtown Leeds. The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and during events. In case of inclement weather, call the center at 205-699-1892 to confirm opening hours.