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Arts Commission Competing for State Funding as Mississippi Confronts Bleak Budget Year

By Rhonda Miller | Published 27 Feb 2012 08:27pm | comments
Art teacher Cece Vallot, left, leads a session on weaving with second-graders at Lyman Elementary in Gulfport.

The Mississippi Arts Commission is competing for funding in the state’s bleak financial situation. Tonight the commission is holding the last of five town hall meetings to hear what kind of art programs citizens want in their communities. As MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, schools are finding creative ways to bring the arts into the classroom.

"Dot…dot...dot....Seurat...dot...dot...dot...Seurat...and this is called what?...pointillism."

Art  teacher Cece Vallot  has her second grade class at Lyman Elementary in Gulfport learning about artists and their styles of art.

Nine-year-old Trinitee Augustine thinks art is cool and it can help her with other subjects.

"Because when you make abstracts, like when you put them together, it tricks your eyes, it’s like science." "How it is like science?" "I get the feeling, but I don’t really know."

Lyman Principal George Black says he uses some of the school’s federal funding to pay for art classes because parents and teachers say it’s a priority.

"One of the things the art does, it provides kids with the opportunity to think, rationalize, put concepts together."

Mississippi Arts Commission Executive Director Malcolm White says a large portion of the organization’s budget goes to arts education in schools and in the community.  He says Mississippi cannot afford to cut funding for the arts.

"Twenty years ago Mississippi took the arts and PE out of our curriculum out of our schools, to which I say, 'Look at us now.'  First on every list we want to be last on, last on every list we want to be first on. We are out of shape and we are out of touch with the 21st Century thinking. We are not creative thinkers. We’re not innovators. We’re followers."

While many legislators from both political parties may support arts education, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson says state finances are bleak. He’s waiting to get more details on the Arts Commission from the subcommittee reviewing its budget.

"We’re short money and we’re going to have to look at this thing real close and try to come up with a way to get through this year, without having too great an adverse affect on next year or the year after next."

About half of the Mississippi Arts Commission’s $3 million budget is funded by the state.

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Art teacher Cece Vallot, left, leads a session on weaving with second-graders at Lyman Elementary in Gulfport.


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