Career found in art box

Published 3:39 pm Monday, April 19, 2010

Dian Kent McCray is a life-long resident of Shelby County.

She is a 1967 graduate of Thompson High School and a 29-year veteran art teacher in Thompson Elementary and High schools.

McCray studied art at Arizona State University, but received both undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Montevallo.

Sharing knowledge and experience with students and colleagues have kept her excited about both making art and the process of teaching art. McCray claims to be the “love child” of her mother’s paint box.

“I have never been able to resist the seductive nature of that box. Once the cover is open, a visual feast of color begs to be squeezed from the tubes of paint,” she said. “I become intoxicated by the smell of turpentine and can’t keep my hands off the 50-year-old collection of paint brushes. Ideas magically pop into my head.

“Its appeal has been hypnotic, irresistible and essential in my creative process and artistic growth. It has never lost its juju for me. My work is a product of will and heart — thanks to the magic in this box,” she added.

McCray has paintings in private collections in Europe and in 11 states, exhibiting in Alabama, Arizona and Virginia.

She has written and illustrated two children’s books.

The latest, Amma’s Magic Box, is the story of Art JuJu as told through her 6-year-old grandson’s eyes.

She has also published articles in Arts and Activities and Alabama Zoological Society magazines and illustrated several publications for Hopscotch Press, Manasha Ridge Press and Bantam Doubleday Dell books.

The Shelby County Arts Gallery is hosting the Dian McCray Solo Exhibition, “What’s For Lunch?”

The exhibit opened Sunday March 28 and will continue through April 28.

You will be impressed with our own Alabaster artist. Don’t miss this opportunity.

A local girl educated at Thompson High School — as were her parents John and Rena Kent — McCray grew up on the Kent Dairy Farm where the Regions Bank, U.S. Post Office, Starbucks and all of the Whitestone Center now stand.

She and cousins Joy and Mike Kent groomed and showed calves for 4-H. McCray also played in the Thompson Band.

Mother to Matthew, grandmother and guardian to Brenden, and wife of Rudy, McCray decided three years ago to not just be an art teacher, but an artist.

Her mother’s magic art box inspires her with loads of imagination and creative juices.

Since last August, McCray has painted 55 pictures or portraits.

Having traveled to Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, England and Spain, her favorite was a family trip to Ireland where they lodged on a Dairy Farm. She felt right at home.

Shelby County Teacher of the Year in 1993, McCray continues being young, hip, encouraging and a champion of many causes.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at