Craftsmen, artists asked to join new organization

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 8, 2003

A new organization is looking for participation from artists andcraftsmen in the area and hopes to work closely with theMississippi School of Arts.

“Southwest Mississippi Artists and Craftsmen is seeking topromote artists and craftsmen who work with a naturalresource-based subject or medium and to promote the work that theydo,” said Sandi Pritchard of Franklin County, interimpresident.

Artists and craftsmen who use wood, stone, plants, other naturalresources will benefit the most from the organization.

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“We’ve had some interest from artists, but it’s really craftsmenwho benefit the most,” said Bennie Hutchins, executive director ofSouthwest Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development. “Theydon’t want to compete with the established visual artsorganizations in the area. They don’t want to reinvent the wheel,but they do want to give another avenue for members to have topromote and refine their crafts.”

SMAC’s focus has enabled them to accomplish something mostemerging organizations only dream of — a beginning bankroll.Hutchins began working with them months ago to establish a Plan ofWork and that allowed them to pursue and receive a $15,000 grantfrom the U.S. Forest Service and the National Endowment for theArts.

“It’s not often that a new organization can start out with a$15,000 bank account, but that’s the fortunate situation that weare in,” said Olivia McCullough of Pike County. “Now it’s up to ourarea artists and craftsmen to take advantage of this opportunity bygetting involved.”

According to the Plan of Work, SMAC’s future activities includea Web site, participating in area festivals, encouraging businessgrowth and marketing on the internet, networking artisans toencourage value-added products, and various educationalactivities.

As part of the educational activities, Hutchins said, theorganization wants to work closely with the Mississippi School ofArts by holding workshops there and, possibly, visiting as guestlecturers.

“The organization does want to work closely with the artsschool, but the problem is that we are limited on what we can do ona public school campus,” he said.

Education of the organization’s members is also one of the theirprimary goals, he said.

“I think education will be one of the primary things we’ll bedoing, probably through workshops,” Hutchins said. “So anyone withan interest in art and crafts is invited to attend and participatein the group’s meetings. Amateurs and professionals alike are bothinvited to join.”

The organization’s next meeting is Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. atthe Mississippi School of Arts in the Johnson Institute’sConference Room (104). Visitors are asked to park at the StudentLife Center on Monticello Street, obtain a guest pass up the hillat the Y-Hut, and attend the meeting at the Johnson Institute nextdoor.

“Our top priority now is identifying and encouragingparticipation from the hundreds of potential members from the12-county area,” said Anita Nettles of Lincoln County, SMAC’ssecretary-treasurer.

Membership is free and all members attending Thursday’s meetingwill be considered charter members.

All members and potential members are encouraged to bring one ortwo items demonstrating their craft or art or a quality picture forpossible inclusion in a brochure funded by the grant to promote theorganization.