© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

Two-time Olympian at MSU shares passion for art ahead of 2024 Paris Olympics

Kelly Salchow MacArthur with children in Paris as part of the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Artists program. This is the second time MacArthur participated in the program.
Courtesy of Kelly Salchow MacArthur
Kelly Salchow MacArthur with children in Paris as part of the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Artists program. This is the second time MacArthur participated in the program.

Michigan State University graphic design professor Kelly Salchow MacArthur recently participated in the International Olympic Committee's artists program.

A two-time Olympian and Michigan State University professor is highlighting her contributions to the Olympic games in Paris later this year. Kelly Salchow MacArthur teaches graphic design at MSU and participated in the International Olympic Committee's artists program.

WKAR’s Melorie Begay spoke with Salchow MacArthur about being an athlete and an artist.

Erik Dresser
/
Courtesy of Kelly Salchow McArthur
Kelly Salchow MacArthur, a competitive rower, participated in the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Interview Highlights

On her passions for rowing and art

I've found that both design and rowing are a natural connection. And in my life, they really balance each other out. So when I'm out on the water, it gives me a chance to think deeply about the creative projects that I'm working on. And when I'm in the studio, it's giving my body a chance to recover from that workout that I've just completed.

On being a part of the Olympic artists program

That was such an exciting opportunity to be reunited with Olympic community. I thought that my time as an Olympian was over after my last Olympics in Athens. But now, 20 years later, I'm so excited to be able to reconnect with that community.

On her recent experience leading an art workshop for children in Paris

On a personal level, connecting with these children was just so heartwarming, and really gave all of us a chance to get to know each other. To talk about our cultures, to talk about Olympic values, and embrace the idea of the Olympics coming to Paris in a very personal way. It's not just the athletes and the coaches that have a key part to play in the Olympics in whichever city they visit. It's really the communities and the cultures that they touch and that inherently affect and inform that Olympics.

An example of one of the collage's a child in Paris created with the help of Salchow MacArthur.
Courtesy of Kelly Salchow MacArthur
An example of one of the collage's a child in Paris created with the help of Salchow MacArthur.

Interview Transcript

Melorie Begay: What got you into rowing, and when did you know you were Olympic quality?

Kelly Salchow MacArthur: I started rowing in high school at age 14, I was in Cincinnati. I fell in love with it right away. I had been swimming and playing tennis. But pretty quickly, I realized that rowing was a great fit. And part of rowing is training on indoor rowing machines, ergometers, and we record our speed and see our distance in time. And it became pretty apparent that I had a natural fit for that sport. Once we got on the water, it was really clear.

Begay: Since then, you’ve competed in the Olympics twice, once in 2000 in Sydney and again in 2004 in Athens. What were both of those experiences like?

Salchow MacArthur: Oh, it was amazing both times. It was the kind of experience that I didn't truly believe was happening to me until I was there. And I felt like at any other part of my life, I would not feel that same sense of awe and amazement. It was an amazing opportunity to represent not just myself, but the country, and really take that opportunity to be an ambassador for good sport and fair play and for the country.

Begay: You’re now a graphic design professor and an artist. Is that something you always thought you would do?

Salchow MacArthur: Yeah. I grew up in a very creative household. My parents were designers and educators. It was always really interesting to see the work that they were creating and the posters that my father would complete and then bring home from the printer, and also visiting them on campus and seeing their studio classrooms and working with students.

I've found that both design and rowing are a natural connection. And in my life, they really balance each other out. So when I'm out on the water, it gives me a chance to think deeply about the creative projects that I'm working on. And when I'm in the studio, it's giving my body a chance to recover from that workout that I've just completed. I feel like I am most at balance when I can do a little bit of both every day when I have the chance to row, and then I get to the studio and create some work.

Begay: So, the IOC started the Olympian Artists program ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, which of course was postponed to 2021 due to COVID. This was your first time your were part of the program. What was that like?

Salchow MacArthur: That was such an exciting opportunity to be reunited with Olympic community. I thought that my time as an Olympian was over after my last Olympics in Athens. But now, 20 years later, I'm so excited to be able to reconnect with that community.

Salchow Mac Arthur's workshop focused on Olympic values and what made the children feel confident.
Courtesy of Kelly Salchow McArthur

In Tokyo 2020, I created a series of five noren curtains that hung in the Nihonbashi neighborhood in an underground walkway before, during and after the Tokyo Olympics. I wasn't able to be there myself because of the travel restrictions. But it was a great opportunity to communicate in a universal way for multiple cultures.

The curtains that I created integrated imagery, which were photographs of the natural world that I took myself, overlaid with English and Japanese characters expressing Olympic values.

Begay: You recently participated in the program again by leading a workshop in Paris, what does it feel like to be able to represent your country as an artist?

Salchow MacArthur: It's a very proud moment and it's one that I take very seriously. This was a very joyful visit to Paris, as I got to connect with children in children's centers, who had been removed from their homes for their own safety. I thought that this community-based opportunity was completely in alignment with the work that I've done at MSU. Graphic design being a service profession where we can create imagery and messages to share to the public for society's benefits.

But on a personal level, connecting with these children was just so heartwarming, and really gave all of us a chance to get to know each other. To talk about our cultures, to talk about Olympic values, and embrace the idea of the Olympics coming to Paris in a very personal way.

It's not just the athletes and the coaches that have a key part to play in the Olympics in whichever city they visit. It's really the communities and the cultures that they touch and that inherently affect and inform that Olympics.

Begay: Kelly Slachow MacArthur is a two time Olympian and an MSU Graphic Design professor. Thanks for joining me today.

Salchow MacArthur: Thank you.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Melorie Begay is the local producer and host of Morning Edition.
To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.