Arts Commission gathers ideas at town hall meeting

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The arts, creativity, education and innovative thinking were all big topics at the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Town Hall meeting at the Link Centre on Thursday.
The commission is hosting the meetings across the state in preparation for its next five-year plan, which it hopes to have ready by June.
Those in attendance Thursday included members of Tupelo blues band Homemade Jamz, Tupelo Community Theatre executive director Tom Booth, Carlton Wall of the comedy group West of Shake Rag and Sharon Long of Tupelo Ballet.
“We’re getting good feedback,” MAC Executive Director Malcolm White said. “There’s an interesting symmetry to these, in that we’re hearing the same sorts of stuff.”
White asked five questions: What do you value most about living and working in Mississippi? How important do you think creativity, innovative thinking and imagination are to our future? What value do arts play in your education or the education of your children? What major arts-related issues are facing you and your community? How can MAC be of help in the future?
Arts in education was a huge topic.
“We’ve got to think our way out of mediocrity, think our way out of poverty, think our way out of being 50th all the time,” White said.
Ryan Perry, the eldest member of teen blues band Homemade Jamz, credited the Tupelo school district’s arts programs with rounding out his education.
“I had a variety of arts to choose from – I could be in the theater, band, jazz band,” he said. “Creativity is best when you’re young. It should be a big issue and should be addressed.”
Many mentioned the need for more local support, whether it was from every day arts patrons to festival organizers.
Wall said censorship efforts by groups like the American Family Association and festivals hiring outside talent rather than local artists are two problems that could be avoided if the community would step up to support artists living in Northeast Mississippi.
“We need support from people who run events, people who make things happen,” said Tricia Perry, mother of the Perry kids who make up Homemade Jamz.
Her son Ryan commended the city, however, for diversifying in the arts and including more festivals and events throughout the year.

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