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Director’s Column

June 2015

Dear Friends,

The end of the school year for students brings trips to swimming lessons, summer camp, or taking a family vacation, while the classroom becomes a distant memory.  Most parents also shift into a summer mindset. Dedicated administrators and educators however, rarely take a vacation from the ever-present challenge of providing high quality opportunities for teaching and learning.  

 

Mississippi communities, including parents and students, are frustrated with failing schools.  Everyone is eager for solutions even if the solutions look much different than the traditional classroom.  

 

The time has come to talk about the ‘new’ classroom.   For over 15 years, the Mississippi Arts Commission has championed the creative concept that arts integrated instruction works for all schools and all students, especially schools struggling with declining scores. 

 

Arts integration is simply a teaching strategy that uses the arts as a tool to teach other subjects.  Research shows that not all students learn in the same way.  By using arts integrated instruction, the teaching methods are varied to reach the learning styles of all students.  How many students face the frustration of asking a question only for the answer to be demonstrated in the same way again using the same instructional method that they didn’t understand the first time?  Using arts integrated instruction, the learner becomes more engaged in the subject matter and learning becomes more interesting and practical. 

 

Industry leaders predict that the most important skills for the job force of the future are creative thinking and creative problem solving.  These are the skills that an arts integrated curriculum brings to the classroom. 

The Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative is leading the way in establishing the classroom of the future. This educational initiative is a homegrown Mississippi model that has been in our schools for over a decade.  The program is dedicated to the strategy of incorporating the arts to make learning engaging, relevant, and meaningful.  Arts integrated strategies engage students cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Test scores go up because there is an emotional connection to the material and learning is embedded with deeper meaning.  Teachers are inspired to be innovative and help to guide their students in discovering their strengths and establishing a love of learning.  

  

To make sure educators are successful, the Mississippi Arts Commission’s provides in-depth professional development in arts integration through the Whole Schools Summer Institute.  It is a four-day workshop featuring local and national experts who share best practices, strategies, and model arts integrated lessons. The informative sessions give teachers and administrators the tools they need to transform their classrooms from a lecture style, teacher-driven environment, to a more hands-on, experiential, project-based method of instruction.  This shift facilitates a lifelong love of learning and ensures that students are ready to launch successful careers, think creatively, problem solve, and are prepared to attend college or be competitive in the work force of the 21st Century.  

 

During the summer break, consider a creative pathway and innovative strategy for school reform in Mississippi; one that the Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative can offer.  When in a conversation about education or merely considering educational possibilities, be aware of the national reform model that has proven itself in the state for the last 15 years; a model that was created, developed, and implemented in Mississippi, by Mississippians for Mississippi schools.

My best,

Tom

 

April 2015

Dear Friends,

It is spring in Mississippi and this time of year brings with it growth and renewal.  The 2015 legislative session drew to a close and state lawmakers awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission an increase in funding.   These additional funds will be invaluable towards our efforts to provide greater support to artists and arts organizations across Mississippi in the coming year.

 

The early part of 2015 saw a very exciting time for MAC.  At the annual Governor’s Arts Awards we celebrated the talents and dedication of three outstanding artists, one inspirational gospel group and an arts organization that is changing the landscape of their community.  We also welcomed a new, but returning Poetry Out Loud champion, who will represent the state again in Washington D.C. at the end of the month.

 

Arts supporters from around the state gathered at the State Capitol in March to proclaim the “Arts Matter” to Mississippi lawmakers.  It was a day of music, fun and advocacy and I would like to personally thank those who attended, as well as those who took a moment to call or write their legislators.  With a strong group of arts advocates we can make a huge impact on annual arts funding.

 

We have moved into granting season and things are hopping around the office in preparation for grant panels.  If you are a potential grantee and wish to attend your grant panel review, be sure to check our website for the dates and times.  As always, please call us if you have any questions.  We are YOUR Arts Commission, and funding your work and programs are our priority.

  

I hope you enjoy this beautiful time of year in Mississippi!

Tom

 

 

February/March 2015

Dear Friends,

The Year of the Creative Economy is off and running into the future with great interest and the new legislative session is underway with many interesting policies being discussed.  We would like to encourage everyone to join us for the upcoming Mississippi Arts Commission’s Governor’s Arts Awards, celebrating and recognizing 27 years of the best of arts in Mississippi. 

 

We are looking forward to a favorable legislative session and are hopeful that we will receive our request for funding so that the important work of the Arts Commission will continue. Without the support of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and our legislators, this agency would not be able to provide critical funding to communities and artists to do important and worthwhile work.  We are fortunate to have the support of these policy-makers.  They understand the connection the arts have to the state’s economy, quality of life, and a sense of place for all Mississippians.

 

On February 19th, we invite you to join us as we celebrate the annual Governor’s Arts Awards.  This year we will honor the Lane Chapel Quintet, Maude Schuyler Clay, Chesney Blankenstein Doyle, the Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts, and Craig Wiseman.  These recipients will join the ranks of other gifted Mississippians such as B.B. King, John Grisham, Morgan Freeman, Bo Diddley, and the USA International Ballet Competition.  This event is meant to not only recognize the accomplishments of the recipients, but to celebrate the artistry and creativity of Mississippi.

 

As we look forward to an exciting year ahead, it is my goal to continue to focus on the strategic directions of the Arts Commission…..LIVE, WORK, LEARN.  We will continue to support the value of arts in education, lifelong learning, creative placemaking, the development of creative partnerships, supporting the development of individual artists, and access and equity for all.

Our best creative days are ahead.

Tom

Winter 2014/2015

Dear Friends,

As this year comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what was accomplished and appreciate new partnerships.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the passionate and talented MAC staff.  I hope our constituents realize that these professionals work tirelessly to provide assistance and guidance to artists and arts organizations across Mississippi. Our newest team member is Whole Schools Initiative Director, Andrea Coleman.  I am confident Andrea will do an outstanding job and will build on the work of the Whole Schools Initiative. 

I would also like to extend my thanks to members of the Mississippi Legislature for their continued support; giving this agency the means to provide valuable resources to those we serve across Mississippi.  Governor Bryant, Lt. Governor Reeves and other Mississippi elected officials have been extremely dedicated to making sure the arts have a seat at the table.

MAC’s Board of Commissioners represent the citizens of the State of Mississippi and serve in a voluntary capacity to provide oversight and guidance to the agency.  Their leadership and knowledge are invaluable to the continued growth of our programs and work on a grassroots level.

Most importantly, I want to express my appreciation to the talented and creative people throughout Mississippi who continue to do amazing work and help to create a better quality of life within each community.

We have many positive outcomes to celebrate at the close of 2014, and many to be excited about in the new year to come.  We look forward to serving the citizens of the state again in 2015, and please know how much we appreciate your support and dedication to the arts in Mississippi.

My best,

Tom

Fall 2014

Dear Friends,

Along with the changing of the seasons in Mississippi, there are many changes here at MAC.  I am delighted to announce that we are now fully staffed and excited to get to the important work at hand.

Our new staff members bring many years of experience in various fields of the arts and arts education.  Along with our seasoned staff members, the new MAC team is a dynamic group of individuals who are ready and eager to serve all of the citizens of Mississippi.

With this highly qualified staff, it is my vision to lead the Mississippi Arts Commission to becoming the premier state arts agency across the country by connecting, facilitating, nurturing, supporting, and providing cutting edge arts and arts education programming that is accessible to every community.  Our team’s overarching goals are to:

  • foster creativity                                                                                              
  • expand arts participation across the state                                     
  • promote greater development of the state’s creative economy

The group of FY2015 grant receipients represents an outstanding listing of fellowship winners, as well as minigrant, project and operating grant recipients representing most of our 82 counties.  We encourage you to extend your congratulations to those who have been awarded funding.  It allows artists and groups to continue the work they do in your community.  MAC is honored to be a part of this important work.  It is inspiring to see the tremendous role the arts play in establishing vibrant, creative places in Mississippi.

As always, please let us know if we may be of any assistance to you or your community.  Our agency is here to serve all of the citizens of Mississippi!

My best,

Tom

Summer 2014

Dear Friends,

With the dog-days of Summer in full swing, we are reflecting on a successful Whole Schools Summer Institute, the closing of our 2014-2015 grant cycle, and moving on to new projects.  I recently celebrated my one year anniversary as Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission and I want to personally thank everyone who has helped to make it a great year for me and for the agency. 

Communities across Mississippi are focusing on the things that make them unique, and it is evident now more than ever, why Governor Bryant proclaimed this as the “Year of the Creative Economy.”  We have the most unique, creative places across our state and it is wonderful to see a new, revitalized energy coming to the forefront.

The Whole Schools Initiative is continuing to grow and show more student engagement and achievement.  Performing Arts venues across Mississippi show increased attendance and community involvement.  The International Ballet Competition was again a tremendous success and brought visitors from around the world to Jackson.  MAC’s Blues Trail Curriculum continues to be discovered by those who want to put it to use in their classrooms and programming.

Be on the lookout for MAC program directors to be out and about in your communities.  It is our commitment to assist artists and arts organizations across the state as they strive to provide quality arts programming to their citizens.

Before the cooler days of autumn arrive, use the hot weather as an excuse to visit a museum, see a live performance, or take an art class.  When you do, please keep in mind that the Mississippi Arts Commission is honored to be helping communities make these activities a reality.

Thank you for a great first year,

Tom

Spring 2014

Dear Friends,

Last month as we celebrated national Youth Arts Month and Music in Our Schools this national spotlight reminded me of the roles that we all play in supporting and increasing the access of arts education for all students.  It brought to mind a few things that we must also ask about our local schools and communities:

Do all students in my community have access to a sequential, quality arts education?

 

How can I as a citizen and community member influence decisions that will make it possible for all students to have a quality arts education?

 

As a community-based organization, how can I support and encourage quality arts education programs in my community?

These are important but necessary questions that we all should be asking everyone in our communities.  Through 30 years of research, we have learned that the arts are critical to a quality education for children as well as adults.  It has also been proven that education in and through the arts is vital to the overall increased quality of life for a community. 

Since Governor Bryant has declared 2014 as The Year of the Creative Economy, it is my hope that we all can focus on the important role that arts education plays in that equation.

I would personally like to thank everyone who attended “Arts Day” at the Capital on March 26th.  It was an outstanding celebration as we all gathered together to shout the value of a life filled with the arts!

Let’s continue the celebration!

Tom

Summer 2013

Dear Friends,
I would like to begin my first letter by saying what a privilege it is for me to serve the people of Mississippi as Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. The arts and arts education have been my life’s work, and it is my personal goal to continue to elevate the arts and artists of our state and to promote the Mississippi story nationally and internationally.


I have just completed my first full month in the MAC office. I am continually amazed at the fine work that is being done across the state and by the staff at MAC. I want to thank Sallye Killebrew for the excellent job she has done as Interim Executive Director for the agency, and she continues to be a terrific resource. Sallye is currently serving as Interim Deputy Director and will continue to support our work in that position.


As we move into fall, I will be traveling the state visiting arts organizations, artists, legislators, and supporters. I hope to meet many of you on my travels. MAC’s Blues Trail Curriculum workshops are kicking off soon, with four sessions across the state for educators wanting to learn more about this wonderful classroom tool. The curriculum was designed to meet the benchmarks of 4th and 10th grade Mississippi History framework, but also to allow flexibility for teachers of other grade levels and subject areas. The curriculum is based in an arts-integrated approach to learning. It is divided into six core areas: Music, Meaning, Cotton, Transportation, Civil Rights and Media, and was created to help students to understand how blues music developed and continues to impact contemporary culture and to address subjects such as geography, history and social studies in the five regions that the Blues Trail is divided. For more details on the workshops, read further into this information-packed newsletter.


This is an exciting time for MAC and for the arts in Mississippi. We have so much talent and creativity within our state. It is important for us to tell our rich and diverse story across the country and the world. Together we can build a stronger Mississippi through the arts. You can count on MAC to be a catalyst for creativity and innovation throughout Mississippi.

My best,

Tom

 

Archived Director's Columns by Malcolm White and Interim Director, Sallye Killebrew.