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Mississippi Artists Doing Their Part to Build the Creative Economy

By Rhonda Miller | Published 28 Feb 2012 11:30pm | comments
The Mississippi Arts Commission held the last of five town hall meetings in Gulfport to get input from residents for its five-year strategic plan.

Artists along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are doing their part to pump up the state’s bank account. MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more on how the Mississippi Arts Commission is helping to build the creative economy.

"Now we’re experiencing year after year after year of budget cuts. We get federal budget cuts, we get state budget cuts."

At five town hall meetings around the state, like this one in Gulfport Tuesday, Mississippi Arts Commission Executive Director Malcolm White says the first question is always about money. But he says artists are not waiting around to find jobs, they’re creating them.

"They want what we call Arts Means Business training. They want to know more about how to organize their small businesses, and that’s what artists are, small businesses. They need help with accounting, with pricing, with promotion."

Twenty-three-year-old painter Amber Peterson has already rented a historic building in downtown Gulfport.

"Yes, I’m actually establishing the Gulf Coast School of Art. It’s a business between my mom and I. She actually just quit her job to work with me in this."

Her mom, Sharon Peterson, has been working in medical offices for the past 25 years.

"I’m just helping her live out her dream. She’s been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, her passion, to get the younger children into art."

Some of the art businesses go much farther back, like the Hundred Men Hall in Bay Saint Louis. Kerrie Loya is executive director.

"It’s an actual, original, historic blues structure. So we have re- started the non-profit and one of the things we’re doing is bringing the blues back to the Gulf Coast. We just recently had Little Freddie King and then we had Walter Wolfman Washington here."

She is one of many at the town hall meeting who have already applied for a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

About half of the commission’s $3 million dollar budget is funded by the state. And like other agencies, the arts commission is competing for its piece of the pie.

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The Mississippi Arts Commission held the last of five town hall meetings in Gulfport to get input from residents for its five-year strategic plan.


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