by Rebecca Rakoczy
Once you meet Margee Bright Ragland, you won’t forget her—that trademark shock of white hair, her wire-rimmed glasses and a smile that exudes boundless energy.
Georgia Perimeter College students who study drawing, art appreciation or watercolor under Bright Ragland know her positive energy well.
“The visual arts are important to people’s health,” she says. “I think everyone can learn to draw. It’s just about learning how to see life from a variety of points of view—and having fun with it. Everyone has potential.”
Since 1975 when she joined then-DeKalb College, Bright Ragland, now an associate art professor at GPC, has been having “fun with it,” despite personally challenging times. A prodigious and well-known artist whose main medium is watercolor—she has exhibited throughout the Southeast, and her work hangs across the college—she also helps curate her students’ work.
“We have a lot of students who go on to graduate school and a lot of professional artists. Many of those students stay in touch,” she says. One former student, Cedric Brown, has exhibited work in Russia and now works as an artist in Hong Kong.
Bright Ragland led GPC’s Faculty Senate from 2010 to 2012 and also is a leader in the University System of Georgia’s European Council program. She teaches watercolor and drawing to USG study abroad students who attend in France, England, Greece, Spain and Ireland. Recently, she took the helm of the council, a three-year position.
Taking charge is not unusual for the indefatigable teacher. Her first husband, Harold Bright, also an art instructor at the college, died of a heart attack in 1989. She had three young children and was working part-time at GPC. It was a difficult period, she says, but she kept working. In 1990 she became a full-time instructor.
Surprisingly, Bright Ragland’s earliest aspiration was not art or teaching—she wanted to become a veterinarian. Animals are often featured in her artwork.
Loving to write as well, she added writing to her repertoire 10 years ago, joining five professional women who dubbed themselves the “Mystic Order of Alabama Fiction Writers.”
Bright Ragland has illustrated and contributed articles to two books by “the Mystics,” most recently “The Ploy of Cooking,” a compilation of humorous tales on the art of entertaining and “faking it in the kitchen.”
She describes the order as akin to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood immortalized in a novel and on the movie screen—with members all sharing their particular quirks, professions and writing talents.
“Margee is without a doubt one of the most generous, creative, and talented people I have ever known,” says Marian Carache, one of the five “Mystics.”
“Because she teaches in Atlanta, she often arrives fashionably late to Mystic meetings but brightens the entire room as she enters. The rest of us sit in awe while she shows us her sketch book or her latest works of art, which are as wonderful, as magical, and as awe-inspiring as Margee herself is.”