The Michael Skinner Art League, more commonly known as MSAL, is Eastern’s answer to prayer for the aspiring artist.

All of MSAL’s efforts are done in remembrance of the late 2008 graduate, Michael Skinner. He passed away in a car accident only seven months after his graduation.

According to those who knew him, Skinner, one of the last Eastern graduates to receive an art degree, felt that the visual arts should be easily accessible to every student.

Skinner was a role model and inspiration to many and MSAL was formed to make his dream of an art college a reality.

Juniors Joshua Ireland and Katie Gallagher and senior Davis Rideout succeeded in securing club status for MSAL last semester.

Club meetings include learning technical art skills and critiquing student-made artwork. These activities encourage and educate the club members.

“MSAL is an open and honest community where we’re not afraid to critique each other,” Ireland said. “But the whole point is to be loving too.”

According to Rideout, Skinner thought criticism and the existence of an artistic community are two of the best ways to help people embrace their own creativity, and that is one of the things that MSAL strives to do in its meetings.

Although MSAL started with many members in the fall of 2009, this semester has left MSAL with a sudden drop in members. Ireland speculates that it may be a matter of content.

“We’re trying to be challenging enough for those who want to grow in their skills, while accessible enough that any beginner can have fun at MSAL,” Ireland said.

Rideout, on the other hand, thinks that it may be an issue of competition.

“There’s a lot of other clubs on campus and we haven’t been around very long,” he said. “We’re a little unsure of how to put our name out there.”

First-year Julie Baratta was one of the ten members last semester, but has not returned this spring because of night classes and a hectic schedule.

“I would like to have gone this semester, but it was too much in one night,” Baratta said. “I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, and I’m disappointed that Eastern offers no fine art courses.”

So, what does the future hold for MSAL?

If membership increases, Ireland and the other leaders hope to achieve Michael Skinner’s dream of starting an art college at Eastern. But, with few members, that goal has become harder to achieve.

“My hope is that someone who didn’t know Mike can pick this up and have a passion for it,” Ireland said.

Rideout, who knew Skinner pretty well, thought that making MSAL a part of the Eastern’s community is something that Skinner would have wanted.

“We hope that the group can be taken in by Eastern and stir enough interest to push for that art major again,” Rideout said.

Hopefully, the group will be able to revive itself and help future students who are interested in art.

“The need to have talented Christians who are known for their talents and love for God is so important,” Gallagher said. “Art would add a whole new dimension to the culture and well-roundedness of Eastern.”


MSAL meets every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in McInnis 312.

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