We can all be ‘Arts School Ambassadors’

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 29, 2001

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was in town Friday afternoon meeting withstudents at West Lincoln High School, and then he had lunch withlocal business leaders to discuss the status of funding for theMississippi School of the Arts.

The governor expressed his devotion to the school, not only forits importance in opening opportunities for Mississippi’s schoolchildren and further enhancing Mississippi’s image nationwide inthe Fine Arts, but also its importance in helping attractingindustry to the state.

Falling short of saying the school would be saved from thebudget axe, Gov. Musgrove said the state will have to look at allpriorities. He did express confidence that the entire operatingbudget would not be cut, as was reported several weeks ago.

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One might remember a bit of history of the school and Gov.Musgrove. It was Musgrove, as Lt. Governor, who came to Brookhavenon several occasions in 1998 and met with community leaders aboutthe prospect and suggested strategy to get the necessarylegislation through the state capitol.

Many here will remember the community coming together duringthat period. It took a united effort of everyone — not only thosein Brookhaven but Lincoln County. Those in surrounding countiesjoined in to help build the support that gave the idea merit andthus gained the interest of legislators statewide.

In a nutshell, we pulled off a miracle that few gave any chanceof success. And it all happened because of the willingness of thisarea to work together. That community support, the governor said,is the difference between communities that succeed and those thatdo not.

Since the news story two weeks ago about the possibility of theschool’s funding being cut, a lot of behind the scenes work hasbeen done. School leaders feel confident it will receive equaltreatment with other state agencies and has the strong support oflegislative leaders in both the Senate and the House.

But as a community, we may have gotten a wakeup call that weneed to become more proactive on the school and begin rebuildinggrass root statewide support. As someone suggested recently, eachof us here in Brookhaven and Lincoln County needs to become ArtsSchool ambassadors by communicating the message to friends andrelatives around the state about the importance of the school toMississippi’s future.

Even with the support of the Legislature, additional fundingfrom private sources is crucial to the success of the school. Afoundation to seek that funding has been established and work isbeginning. One large commitment from former resident Dickie Scruggshas already been secured, but many more are needed.

In the political world, those things that are important todaycan become not so important tomorrow if the public’s attention isfocused elsewhere. During this time of belt tightening in Jackson,it behooves this area to be sure that other parts of the state areas excited about the school as we are here in Brookhaven.

We can accomplish that goal by being ambassadors and telling thestory of the school to anyone who will listen.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602.