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Overview: Program Goals and Outcomes

Grant support is a major element of the Commission’s strategy to achieve the goals and outcomes it has established in its 2014-2018 Strategic Plan.  We invite arts organizations, schools and educators, local arts councils, and community organizations to use these grant opportunities to develop programs that incorporate their own priorities and that reflect the goals and outcomes we hope to achieve statewide during the next five years.

The first step in applying for grant funding is to determine to which program should your organization apply. While considering what your organization hopes to achieve, read carefully the following descriptions of the four programs through which grants to organizations are offered. Choose the program that best fits your organizational or project goals and outcomes with our program goals and outcomes.

Still not sure? The work of our four programs naturally overlaps somewhat. Call the Commission and speak with one of the program staff and let them help you. Their names and phone numbers follow the program descriptions below.

A Note to Individual Artists

For specific information about the opportunities and services available to artists, please visit our website at This guide contains the guidelines and applications for the Commission’s Fellowship and Apprenticeship award programs and the guidelines and applications for approval to the Commission’s Artist Roster.

Arts-Based Community Development

Program Goal 1: Support the development of Mississippi communities through the arts.

The arts enliven communities. They play an important role in addressing such social issues as poverty, illiteracy, and youth crime.  They engage, entertain, and bring us together.

The Mississippi Arts-Based Community Development program helps to support local arts programs that apply the arts to community improvement, whether that be in terms of economic development, tourism, social service delivery, community-building, youth services, public design, race relations, access to the arts, or some other aspect of community development.  It also supports local arts agencies that ensure access by all residents in their communities to high-quality arts programs, thereby creating more livable and vibrant communities. 

As primary arts resources in communities, local arts agencies can effect positive community changes through the arts. By providing funding and services, the Commission will help to strengthen local arts agencies that are working to effect such changes. We will help to advance new, inactive, or struggling arts councils. In addition, we will focus on the agencies’ local leadership and organizational capacity.

There are many communities with strong arts participation but lacking local arts agency involvement.  In these settings, park districts and recreational facilities, libraries, faith-based institutions, and social and economic development organizations can lead in using the arts to produce positive results. The Commission’s aim in all communities is to engage artists and arts organizations in working with these groups to improve the quality of life.

To bolster the Commission’s grassroots work through local arts agencies, we will sustain our state level partnerships, as well as our targeted, statewide initiatives in adult literacy and juvenile justice.  In addition, we will promote public art as a way to honor Mississippians, to beautify our local communities, and to attract visitors, thus contributing to our economy.

Program outcomes

Through grants, services, and initiatives, the program expects to see

  • Local arts agencies have improved capacity to provide arts programs to benefit residents of their communities. Improved capacity is demonstrated by such things as increased resources, including adequate funds and leadership;
  • More Mississippi counties have community arts programs that provide increased opportunities for public participation in the arts;
  • Community arts programs provide increased opportunities for people of different social and cultural backgrounds to come together;
  • Community arts organizations have access to information that improves local arts administration and programming;
  • The Commission has increased opportunities to integrate arts resources into community and human development initiatives;
  • Public art programs places new art works in public places;
  • State-level Commission partnerships are sustained that raise public awareness and increase support for community arts development; and
  • Local arts agencies and non-arts community organizations develop new local leadership and new local partnerships.

Grants available: Operating Grants, Two-Year Operating Grants, Project Grants, and Minigrants

Contact: For more information about the Arts-Based Community Development Program, contact Connie Souto Learman at or (601) 359-6035.

Arts Industry

Program Goal 2: Improve the capacity and stability of Mississippi’s arts industry.

Arts organizations are crucial to the well being of Mississippi communities.  However, most of them struggle to sustain the current level of their activity and administer their programs effectively.  For many of them, management by crisis is virtually an every day reality, brought about by a lack of training and experience in managing and planning, inadequate leadership and governance, weaknesses in fiscal control, and a scarcity of resources—financial, technological, facilities, and marketing support—to name only a few.

The Commission seeks to help arts organizations in Mississippi improve their capacity to carry out their programs, assure the adequacy of critical resources, manage their affairs, and participate as full partners with other civic institutions in the lives of their communities.

Program outcomes

Through grants, services, and initiatives, the program expects to see

  • Arts organizations’ financial stability improves as evidenced by such factors as year-to-year balanced budget outcomes; elimination or reduction of deficits and strengthened reserves; expanded revenue and contribution support;
  • Management and stability of arts organizations improves;
  • People with disabilities and members of immigrant and underserved communities have improved opportunities to strengthen Mississippi’s arts infrastructure;
  • Governance and volunteer leadership of arts organizations improve;
  • Community participation in organizational programs and activities expand; and

Grants available: Operating Grants, Two-Year Operating Grants, Project Grants, and Minigrants.

Contact: For more information about the Arts Industry Program, contact Turry Flucker at or 601-359-6075.

Arts Education

Program Goal 3: Strengthen education in and through the arts.

Education in and through the arts is an essential component of the learning experience of Mississippi schoolchildren Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12.  An arts education enriches their lives, lays the foundation for academic and career success, and transmits a deeper appreciation for the unifying elements common to all cultures while celebrating the distinctive features of each. Through the arts, educators have the ability to reach every student as they create a child-centered classroom that can tap into all of the multiple intelligences.  Arts education benefits students’ families and the communities in which they live.  It is a basic right of all children, not simply the socially advantaged or gifted and talented.

The key function of the Commission in supporting arts education is to foster the professional development of educators, enabling them to teach the arts more effectively and use the arts as learning tools in teaching the non-arts curriculum.  Our role is to place artists, arts specialists, grant money for innovative projects, and technical assistance at the disposal of local schools.

The Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative (WSI) has proven to be a successful model in using arts integration for school reform.  The evaluation results of WSI indicate that schools successfully using the arts in the classroom are seeing overall increased scores on standardized tests, increased literacy, better attendance by students and teachers, decreased discipline problems, and increased parent participation. This initiative provides grants, professional development and technical assistance to schools to use the arts creatively throughout the entire curriculum.

Program outcomes

Through grants, services and initiatives, the program expects to see

  • More schools participate in the Commission’s Arts-in-Education (AIE) programs;
  • The quality and quantity of arts activity in schools increases, particularly in traditionally under-served locales;
  • Measured growth in the Whole Schools Initiative (WSI) participation continues;
  • We develop and implement sustainable state-level support for the Whole Schools Initiative, with adequate staff to manage the program effectively;
  • The number and quality of artists’ residencies taking place in schools increase. Classroom teachers are well-informed and effectively partnered with trained artists and arts educators; and
  • More sustainable partnerships exist between schools and community organizations and other non-school groups.

Grants available: Project Grants and Minigrants.

Contact: For more information about the Arts in Education Program, contact Charlotte Smelser at or (601) 359-6037.

Special initiative: Whole Schools Initiative

Whole Schools Initiative

The Whole Schools Initiative is about comprehensive school reform using the arts, and requires a strong commitment from the school and district. Unlike the other grant categories, Whole Schools requires a training component. The initiative is open to elementary, middle and high schools. The initiative seeks to educate every child in a school in and through the arts. All members of the school community play an important role in this initiative: the superintendent, the principal, arts and classroom teachers, students, parents, community organizations, local artists and businesses.

Schools participating in the Initiative are supported through grant funds, professional development and technical assistance for up to five years, provided the school is effectively engaged in the program and is exhibiting growth.

Grants available: Whole Schools Implementation Grants and Minigrants (via Arts in Education)

Contact: For more information about the Whole Schools Initiative, contact Andrea Coleman, Whole Schools Director, at or 601-359-6040.

Folk & Traditional Arts

Program Goal 4: Increase the knowledge of and pride in Mississippi’s artistic and cultural traditions.

Mississippi is home to a wide range of artistic traditions that show the deeply held values of our communities. The folk and traditional arts are at the core of this community-level expression, as are the artistic expressions that have evolved from traditional forms.

The Commission’s Heritage Program works to help increase awareness of Mississippi’s traditional arts and foster the continuation of them through grants, services, and special initiatives. There are three areas of Mississippi’s cultural heritage that the Heritage Program supports:

Community-based traditional art forms: These are art forms or practices which groups of people employ to maintain a shared sense of identity. Community-based art forms are most often learned informally within a community rather than through a school setting. They are also dynamic, changing subtly over the years to meet the shifting needs of the community. The Heritage Program supports both the long established traditional art forms such as blues and woodcarving, as well as those being brought to the state by immigrant groups, such as the corrido song tradition of Mexico.

Early immigrant art forms: The artistic traditions of the groups who settled in Mississippi helped to form the foundation of several of our state’s traditional art forms. For example, scholars have shown the influence of African culture on the development of the blues. Another example is the ties between Celtic and Mississippi fiddle styles. The Heritage Program, therefore, provides support to projects exploring these artistic expressions that helped to shape Mississippi traditional culture.

Place-based art forms: There are some forms of Mississippi artistic expression that are not strictly traditional, but still have a strong connection to local culture and community life. A prime example of this is found in Mississippi literature. While literature is primarily an academic-based tradition, the work of many Mississippi writers reflects the culture of their community, including the stories, beliefs, and other elements of folk culture. When a project presents and explores an art form in light of its relationship to the culture and folk expressions of a community, the Heritage Program can support it.

Program outcomes

Through grants, services and initiatives, the program expects to see

  • More exemplary traditional artists are identified by the Heritage Program and participate in Commission programs;
  • More traditional artists receive recognition through non-Commission sources, including awards, publications and features in the mass media;
  • The network of individuals and organizations within Mississippi who document, support and present traditional art forms is strengthened;
  • More quality documentation of Mississippi traditional artists and art forms is done. The materials generated are shared through a variety of formats, including books, videos, recordings, and websites;
  • More traditional artists are integrated into local community arts activity, including festivals, school residencies and other activities;
  • The Heritage Program becomes more closely integrated with the rest of the Commission’s program areas; and
  • New professional folk arts positions are established in different regions of the state.

Grants available: One and two-year Operating Grants, Project Grants, and Minigrants

Contact: For more information about the Folk & Traditional Arts program, contact Jennifer Jameson at or 601-359-6034.

Special Initiatives

The following special initiatives are designed to meet the goals and outcomes of more than one of the Commission’s programs described above. For more information about these initiatives, please contact the program director listed below each initiative description.

Building Fund for the Arts (No longer available)

Established by the Mississippi Legislature, the Building Fund for the Arts is designed to give the arts a stronger presence within small and large communities. Through this special initiative, the Commission awards grants to non-profit organizations and units of city or county government for the renovation, repair, expansion, and enhancement of cultural facilities across the state.

In FY 2002, the Commission awarded $6 million in grants to organizations in 24 counties and 25 towns representing both urban and rural areas throughout the state. Because of its success and popularity, the Mississippi Legislature made available for an additional $4 million in FY 2003, $3 million in FY 2004, and $2 million in FY 2005 for the building program. Program priorities include the potential impact on a community, capacity and readiness of the applicant organization to successfully manage the project, appropriateness of plans for the identified building and its community, and the feasibility of the identified space for artistic purposes and its access by the community.

Contact: For more information about the Building Fund for the Arts, contact Diane Williams, Director of Grants Programs at or 601-359-6529.