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2/28/2020 - Jackson, Miss.

The arts enrich communities through performances and exhibits that range from entertaining to thought-provoking, but the arts also enrich our communities through their economic impact. The National Endowment for the Arts reports that the arts have a significant impact on the state’s economy:

  • Arts and cultural production in Mississippi added 2.3%, or $2.5 billion to the state's economy.
  • Mississippi’s arts and cultural industries employ 25,817 workers. These workers earn wages and benefits totaling $1.2 billion.
  • 17.8% of Mississippi’s adults attended live music, theater, or dance performances, while 7.6% attended art exhibits.

Mississippi Public Universities play a large role in producing performances and events that contribute to the arts in Mississippi.

Delta State University hosts “The Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop for teachers, having an educational impact far beyond Mississippi’s borders, but having a significant impact on the local economy. Funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the 10-year, $1.57 million endeavor has been attended by more than 600 teachers in public and private primary and secondary schools.

The week-long workshop gives teachers from across the country the opportunity to learn about the Delta through an immersive experience that includes touring significant cultural and historical sites, taking in the Delta landscape, dining in local restaurants, seeing local musicians perform, and attending scholarly lectures and panel discussions. In addition to learning about the Delta’s past and present, the attendees learn methods for teaching regional history to their students.

The workshop is held by DSU’s Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which promotes greater understanding of the Mississippi Delta, its culture, history and significance to the world through education, partnerships, and community engagement.

Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center hosts an annual season of performances, including concerts, national Broadway tours, dance, independent film, and a matinee series for school-age students. Between its season, campus, and community events, BPAC hosts approximately 275 events a year in its two performance spaces, the 1,200 seat Delta & Pine Land Theater and 145-seat Recital Hall, serving approximately 12,000 teachers and students and 25,000 community members annually.

BPAC also hosts the Janice Wyatt Mississippi Summer Arts Institute, featuring a series of three camps that serves youth ages 5-18 through residential and day camps. BPAC hires teaching artists and counselors as faculty and staff during the summer.

Located directly in front of BPAC, the Mathews-Sanders Sculpture Garden hosts a biennial competition to bring new public art, an endeavor so successful that the Sculpture Garden has expanded across the DSU campus to the Grammy Museum® Mississippi as well as downtown Cleveland.

Delta State provides an annual $2 million economic impact in cultural benefits to the 18-county region of the Mississippi Delta by people attending shows, sports, and other events on campus rather than going elsewhere for them.

The Delta Music Institute All-Stars, a select group of DSU student performers, has traveled to Los Angeles to perform at the Grammy Museum for Mississippi Night during Grammy Week. This year, Mississippi Night was held at Grammy Museum® Mississippi; DMI students also provided production and live sound for these performances. Recently, several DMI groups and singer/songwriters performed in Jackson, Miss., at the annual DMI night at Hal & Mal’s. Additionally, students from DMI can be found performing in local venues as well as on campus throughout the year.

DSU’s Art Department provides many arts initiatives:

  • Student teachers for the Delta Arts Alliance art programming, which serves the greater Delta region.
  • Graphic design interns for a number of local businesses including DSU, Coopwood Communications and the Delta Arts Alliance.
  • An annual workshop for area Boys Scouts to earn Art Merit Badges.
  • Six annual exhibits: four from nationally recognized artists, one student exhibit, and one faculty exhibit.

The video concentration unit within the Art Department is working on a documentary about the 1969 sit-in on the DSU campus—and is receiving the 2020 Elbert R. Hilliard Oral History Award from the Mississippi Historical Society for it.  

And yearly activities at Delta State’s Department of Music consistently draw participants from the community and region (in addition to DSU students): Honor Band, more than 200 7th-12th graders and their teachers; Honor Choir, up to 200 9th-12th graders and their teachers; Art of Piano, up to 50 elementary through college students; and Low Brass day, up to 40 junior high and high school students and their teachers.

The Department of Music at Mississippi University for Women will host the Fourth Annual Music by Women Festival next week. The festival will feature papers, presentations, lecture-recitals and performances relating to music composed, taught and performed by women. Concerts of new and historic music written by women composers are a highlight of the festival. All events are free and open to the public. 

The event, which has received funding through a grant, also is sponsored by the Mississippi Arts Commission, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Columbus Arts Council, Holiday Inn Express and other businesses and individuals, will feature more than 200 participants. Volunteers and graduate and undergraduate students also will take an active role in highlighting the works of women from all over the world.

Mississippi University for Women also hosts the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, which has continued to attract emerging writers and regional participation for more than 30 years. Held each October in honor of The W’s most famous alumna, the event features a diverse group of Southern writers and scholars who are invited to present their work. A highlight of the Symposium is the announcement of the Eudora Welty Prize for an unpublished book of scholarship.

All Symposium events will be held on the MUW campus and are free and open to the public. The Symposium is made possible through the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is one of only 37 institutions in the nation accredited in theatre, art and design, dance, and music. USM hosts more than 300 arts and culture events – including performances, exhibits and concerts – annually.

 Each June, USM and venues across the Pine Belt host FestivalSouth, Mississippi's only multi-week, multi-genre festival, which offers both free and ticketed events that showcase the area's rich creative economy. FestivalSouth features many USM faculty, staff, students, and alumni and includes programming for individuals of all ages. In 2019, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary and has produced more than 850 events in 100 venues, employed nearly 3,000 people, and seen more than 250,000 attending and participating in festival events.

The USM School of Music is dedicated to its longstanding international reputation for musical excellence. The school provides musical and educational opportunities for the professional and artistic growth of student musicians. Students work side-by-side with distinguished faculty who have performed on world-class stages and teach at festivals and conferences around the globe. Ensembles include The Southern Chorale, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and the Steel Pan Orchestra, which perform at regional, national and international events.

In 2019-20, USM's Symphony Orchestra is celebrating 100 years of excellence in music performance, training of young musicians, and community and educational outreach. The Symphony Orchestra offers an intense performance schedule covering classical to pop musical styles, which draws both students and guest artists from around the globe.

The USM School of Performing and Visual Arts houses undergraduate programs in art, graphic design, painting and drawing, sculpture, dance performance and choreography, dance education, theatre, theatre performance, and theatre design and technology. Graduate program are offered in theatre performance, theatre design and technology, and directing. The school produces exhibitions and performances throughout the year, and students are highly engaged in practice in the arts.

USM is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the National Association of Schools of Dance, and the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

USM’s Creative Writing program, housed in the School of Humanities’ Center for Writers, offers courses and workshops in fiction, nonfiction, prose and poetry, taught by distinguished faculty who are widely published in their field. Students can work toward an Master of Arts or a PhD in English with an emphasis in creative writing and are afforded opportunities to study with internationally acclaimed resident and visiting authors.

USM’s Media and Entertainment Arts major, housed in the School of Communication, offers unique and in-depth insights into either sound, video or film production, all of which lead to careers in popular mass media entertainment.

The Arts Institute of Mississippi (AIM) promotes the arts statewide. AIM’s mission is to work to increase funding for both arts education and public arts; to encourage collaboration and public outreach among the USM arts programs; to recognize and encourage local and statewide arts initiatives and special projects; to work with Partners for the Arts, an alliance between the Pine Belt community and USM; and to recognize outstanding high school level arts teachers, schools, and organizations in Mississippi through the AIM Awards.


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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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