“The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.”

- James Baldwin from “The Creative Process” 1962

Contemporary ARts Memphis
June 2-28, 2024

Following the successful launch of the Contemporary Arts Memphis “CAM” Summer Fellowship in Summer 2022, we are excited to announce the 2024 Summer Fellowship starting Sunday, June 2nd through Friday, June 28th, 2024. The four-week program is open to high school students entering 11th and 12th grades from schools across Memphis and surrounding areas. The first three weeks will be spent, sleep-away style, at St. Columba Retreat Center in North Memphis. Programming will include college-level instruction at the University of Memphis where students can secure dual enrollment (college credit), and participation in specialized workshops with industry professionals, studio time, and peer-focused group discussions.

The 4th week of the program will be spent in New York City, where Fellows will visit cultural institutions, meet working artists, tour educational institutions and galleries, and get a taste of NYC life. After the Summer Fellowship, alumni will participate in year-round programming to support our Fellows' artistic and educational journey throughout their high school experience. Our focus is building Fellows' artistic skillset, portfolios and securing scholarship dollars for Fellows. CAM is building an Alumni Fellow network of
Memphis creatives!  

Apply Now!

A summer immersive for young artists at the beginning of a lifelong commitment to making art.

CAM Summer Fellowship

Gain access to the world of Contemporary Art through exposure and instruction. Learn how to establish a studio practice. Build a network of like-minded peers. And chart a course for your educational plans for college and beyond. The CAM Summer Fellowship Program is also provided at no-cost to all Summer Fellows regardless of financial background. This includes all fees for instruction, lodging, food, supplies, and travel. There are no out-of-pocket expenses.

Applications are closed for the 2024 Summer Fellowship. Stay tuned for 2025 dates!

Eligibility: Current 10th or 11th graders from Memphis or Shelby County

Questions: Email Derek Patterson at patterson@camsummer.org

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Turn your talent into a lifestyle.


The Summer Fellowship schedule is a combination of university-level led learning with dual enrollment, specialized workshops from arts professionals and peer-focused group discussion. Independent learning and discovery is possible during studio time. During our community-wide Open Studio sessions, experiential learning is possible through hands-on art instruction with some of Memphis' finest educators and artists.


Our instructional model places inspiration on par with information. CAM's foundation is working with young people to inspire their thinking and show that careers in the visual arts can be a reality. Whether the Summer Fellowship, Year-Round Programming or Open Studio sessions, CAM inspires young people. We prioritize experiential learning: no filter and no editorializing — just your perspective and your point of view. We also challenge our young people through group crits - peer inspiration and learning is so important.


CAM is specifically working with high-schoolers to ensure arts-interested students can have both the opportunity and access to arts resources needed. Research shows that investment in the arts leads to academic success and long-term financial stability for low-income children. For many of our Fellows and incoming students, this may be a way out of generational poverty, in a city where the average child poverty rate is 37% and the County is 27%. We are also intentional that our quality programming is provided at no cost - so all interested young people can participate no matter their financial status.    

The CAM Mission:
Develop young artists through exposure to visual art as a vehicle for change.

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Support access for young artists.

Brian Cohen
Derek Fordjour
Isaac Fordjour
Lia Fordjour (Treasurer)
Lauren Kennedy  
Yashua Klos  
Lisa Opoku (President)
Elliot Perry
Manon Slome
Ed Stanton, III (Secretary)  

Advisory board
Miska Clay Bibbs
Lisa Jackson
Corinne Jones
Victoria Jones
Zoe Kahr
Artemis Peppa Williams
Stephanie Pierce
Bryant Terry
Ashley Thayer

It has been one of the best experiences of my life, maybe even the best. Being around so many like-minded individuals, Fellows and advisors alike, has been life changing, and I feel that I’ve been through the most enjoyable boot camp in existence.

- 2023 Fellow

CAM has been such a great experience! I’ve met some of the greatest people and learned things I never would have known. I think CAM is extremely beneficial to the Memphis community and the future of Memphis art.

- 2023 Fellow

Your child will grow as an artist and an individual. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

- 2023 Fellow

I witnessed the amazing transformation of one of my students after she attended the CAM summer program. She came away from the experience with more confidence in her artistic abilities and with a clear direction when it comes to her personal art. CAM opened up a new world to her that she didn’t know existed, giving her a desire to pursue a career in the arts. She has won numerous art awards this year, and her AP portfolio is one of the best I’ve seen. Thank you CAM for inspiring this amazing young talent!

- 2022 Summer Fellow Teacher

Derek Fordjour

Derek Fordjour, founder of CAM Summer Fellowship Program, was born in Memphis, Tennessee to parents of Ghanaian heritage. His work has been exhibited in numerous venues including The Whitney Museum of American Art; BAM, Brooklyn; and Josh Lilley Gallery, London. He has received commissions for public projects including a permanent installation for Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City at 145th Street Subway Station and The Whitney Museum Billboard Project. He was awarded 2016 Sugarhill Museum Artist-in-Residence, the 2017 Sharpe Walentas Studio Program in New York City, and named the 2018 Deutsche Bank NYFA Fellowship Award. He is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia, earned a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Harvard University and an MFA in painting at Hunter College. His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Hyperallergic. He has also been featured in several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair and Forbes Magazine. He was recently appointed The Alex Katz Chair at Cooper Union and serves as a Core Critic at Yale University School of Art. His work also appears in several collections including The Studio Museum of Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, Perez Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum and LACMA.


Derek Patterson

Program Director

Leslie Bouldin


Christy Gilmour

Communications Director

Frequently Asked Questions

What should my portfolio look like and what is your acceptance Process?

CAM Summer Fellowship Program identifies fellows through a competitive process. The first step is applying for the program through our website. You will need to prepare a high-quality portfolio of work with clear examples of original artwork. This is what we recommend for portfolio submissions:

1. Create 3 to 5 original artworks using direct observation. Direct observational work can take many forms. Some examples are: Still lifes, self-portraits, plein air drawings & paintings, blind contours, shading studies, mark-making studies, color studies and figure drawing.

2. Create 3 to 5 original artworks using your own style and technique. When creating these works, please consider your concept or theme. * The chosen medium is entirely up to what is accessible to you, but CAM recommends the following mediums: charcoal, conte, ink wash, watercolor, acrylic paint, colored pencil and graphite. If you only have access to graphite pencils, we recommend experimenting with shading, mark-making and linework.

3. Document your 6 to 10 pieces with high-quality photos. When taking high-quality photos, ensure that you have bright and even lighting that does not cast shadows on your work. Ensure that the photos of your work are not angled. Instead, they should be straight-on and centered in the frame. Modern phones have the capability of taking high-quality photos. When uploading your artwork to the computer, check to see that it is uploaded with the highest quality settings possible.

Next, please thoughtfully answer the questions, submit your grades and secure up to 3 recommendation letters from an art teacher, counselor, teacher, pastor, etc. CAM's mission is to develop a pipeline of artistic talent; priority for acceptance is given to those applicants who envision an education or career in the arts. Applicants must be high schoolers currently in 10th or 11th grades. During the Summer Fellowship, all students must be rising 11th and 12th graders. If you have applied before and were not accepted, you can re-apply. ***The deadline for 2024 applications is February 1,2024.**

All applications will be reviewed by a CAM Jury, composed of working artists. The final step is an interview with the CAM team.

CAM 2024 Fellows will be notified of their acceptance to the Summer Fellowship by March 8, 2024. Each Cohort cam only accept 25 Fellows.

I do not have a good art program in my school. How do I make art to show?

CAM understands that not all students have access to in-school arts programming and quality materials. We accept all forms of art in your portfolio of work. Drawings, sculptures, photography, paintings, prints, sketchbook work, animations, or digital work are all accepted. Find the space and time to create work, whether it is in your bedroom, kitchen, living room, school cafeteria, or classroom. Some amazing work can be done quickly in a sketchbook with limited time. Document your work to the best of your ability. Your instructors may be able to help you with this, but if that is not possible, find a space that has even, natural light and take a few clear, and focused photos. Limit shadows and crop the images down so that the art fills the whole image. For your benefit, we have purposefully ensured a lengthier application period so you can have time to develop these creative expressions for your application.

My art is good but my grades are not. Should I still apply?

Yes! In our application process, the greatest weight is given to your original artwork. You may offer an explanation of your academic record in the written portion of your application and at your interview. CAM is also cognizant of access and understanding not all young people have shared the same educational and artistic supports. Our Fellowship will proudly be representative of the community we serve.

You're AcCepted into CAM. What's next?

Fellows must be available to attend all four weeks of the CAM Summer Fellowship. There are no variances from an abbreviated Fellowship or stay-at-home option to maintain program integrity. There will be a "Signing" Day on Saturday, April 13, 2024 that is mandatory for all invited Fellows and their parent(s) or guardians to attend. Paperwork will be completed and head shots will be taken at this event (time and location TBA). Details will be provided at this event about packing, policies and procedures, etc. There will also be an Orientation Session on Saturday, May 4th, 2024; all Fellows will have the opportunity to meet prior to the start of the June Fellowship.

What is life like at St. Columba in memphis?

CAM Summer Fellowship Program is an on-site, sleep away immersive experience at St. Columba Retreat Center located in North Memphis. We have a separate CAM-only building on the campus, where Fellows will sleep, eat, learn, create and enjoy the beautiful, forested campus. Fellows will be housed in dormitory style rooms (2/room with shared bathrooms); there is a "mess hall," large hall for educational programming and screened in porches. Fellows will travel to the University of Memphis Monday-Thursday for university instructor led sessions, both in the morning and afternoon. Fellows will have the opportunity to earn dual enrollment (college credit) if they meet UofM criteria. Between Friday - Sunday, Fellows will experience local Memphis cultural institutions and a few spots to just have fun! Fellows will also participate in educational, professional and personal Pathways sessions, designed to help build their knowledge base. It's important to know that we will be asking Fellows to be "in the moment" -- to build community with their peers on campus. For this reason, there will be times without cell phone usage. (Parents/Guardians: Please note that there is a staff member with a phone at all times.) Fellows are also discouraged from leaving campus regularly during the Memphis-based program. (However, we do understand if an occasion comes up - medical, a religious service etc.)

What is the New york city experience like?

New York City is a truly special experience - it is a big, bustling city that offers so many cultural activities. Fellows will be flying there; CAM staff will arrange ticketing and all logistics. Prior to the trip, Fellows will receive a briefing and a "travel 101" to help the group prepare for the experience. While in New York, Fellows will get to visit Derek's studio, spend time getting to see some university campuses, visiting galleries, iconic museums like The Met and meeting other artists. It's a fast-paced trip to a city of 8.3 million; we use private motor coach to move around the city. Fellows will have their phones available during this portion of CAM.

What happens after the Summer Fellowship?

All high-school alumni then participate in Year-Round Programming. Artist-led courses will be hosted 1-2 times per month in select locations; courses will include oil painting, portfolio development, color theory, figure drawing, etc. The CAM Team will also be working with Fellows (and their families as needed) on the college application process - including FASFA, portfolio building and documentation. CAM is working to secure scholarship dollars for Fellows within the leading arts programs and arts institutions. Fellows that actively participate in Year-Round Programming can also participate in Spring Break; in 2024, the group will travel to Atlanta! Year-Round programming is also provided at no-cost to Fellows.