Born and raised in Birmingham, Mason McCulley heeded the call to go west as a young man. After graduating from Mountain Brook High School in 2001, Mason attended Pepperdine University in Malibu and stayed on the West Coast to pursue his lifelong dream of an acting career. He has since appeared on such popular shows as Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: New York, Without a Trace and Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush. In addition to a successful acting career, Mason is the creative force behind yôl threads, a Southern-inspired tee shirt line he created while in college, and is an accomplished artist, painting primarily with acrylic and paper on canvas. Now living in Los Angeles, Mason returns to his hometown this week for the opening reception of his latest collection of paintings at Gallery 1930 on Thursday, October 24th. Here’s what we learned when we caught up with him recently:
What do you miss most about Birmingham?
Being close to friends and family. I have nieces and nephews who I feel like are growing up before my eyes. I wish I could spend more time with them.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you are back in town?
It seems like we always have a family night at Bottega Cafe when I’m home. I have loved that place for as long as I can remember. The ambiance, the food and the energy there is great. It is always busy and it feels like you could be anywhere in the world.
Any advice for our readers who may be interested in pursuing a West Coast dream?
Do it! You can always move back. I love Los Angeles and living there was always a dream of mine. It often gets a bad rap, but that is usually from people who have never been or have only visited for a short period of time. There are so many different neighborhoods to discover–from Santa Monica to Silverlake. While it is a very large city and traffic can be crazy, there is so much to explore. We have the beach and mountains, both within an afternoon’s drive. The creativity and opportunity of Los Angeles is what really gets me excited. You never know who you are going to meet or what the day will bring.
Did you have any Birmingham mentors along the way?
Definitely. There were several teachers from my growing up years who encouraged me to be creative, but honestly it is my parents who instilled a confidence in me that I could accomplish whatever I wanted. I went through many creative phases and hobbies as a kid, and they never questioned it. They did whatever they could so I could learn as much as possible.
Is there any restaurant in Birmingham you wish would pull up stakes and move out to Los Angeles?
Milo’s and Gilchrist <smile>
At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Always. I don’t think you become an artist, I think you either are or you aren’t. If you are engaging your creativity, in whatever form that is, you are an artist. As a kid I loved drawing and painting and making things, from masks to puppets to “art” I was always creating. Other kids were playing sports, I was baking clay in the oven.
Who are some artists you admire?
I have always loved the folk artist Mose T. When I was a kid, we had T-shirts with his artwork printed on them. He was the real deal. Organic and raw. There was a simple sophistication to his work. While he had no “training” per se, he had a very distinct style and technique that was consistent. I have also always loved Rothko. His use of color and layers. So cool.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Muskoka, Canada. My grandmother was Canadian, so I have spent summers in Canada since I was born, as has my mother. My grandmother’s house sits overlooking Lake Muskoka and, to me, it is the most beautiful spot in the world.
Thanks for sharing with us today, Mason! To learn more about Mason McCulley, visit his website at www.masonmcculley.com. And be sure to come out to the Collective Show at Gallery 1930 to meet Mason and view his fabulous paintings, along with laudable works by Brad Robertson and Meredith Keith.
Meredith Keith, Mason McCulley, & Brad Robertson
Exhibit: October 24 – November 14
Reception: Thursday, October 24, 5:30 to 8:30