Departing MSA director Lambert proud of arts school success

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 22, 2009

Some experts say if a new school lasts more than five years,it’s there for the duration.

Mississippi School of the Arts Executive Director Dr. VickiLambert has now steered MSA through six years. In spite of hurdlesand roadblocks along the way, Lambert said the institution is onethat will continue to rise above its trials if the Brookhavencommunity just continues to believe in it.

“I would ask our supporters to remember that there is noguarantee in life, and to be ever watchful to insure those peoplewho don’t understand this place, that they are not allowed to doaway with it,” Lambert said.

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Lambert is stepping down as the school’s leader June 30, the endof the state’s fiscal year. She will preside over her finalgraduation ceremony as MSA executive director Saturday at 2 p.m. atRea Auditorium at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

During Lambert’s tenure, some members of the state legislaturetried to relocate MSA to Columbus and combine it with theMississippi School of Math and Science. Lambert said fighting thatbattle was one of the biggest trials she had at MSA.

“Funding and legislation are our biggest challenge, and havebeen since the beginning,” she said. “It’s ironic that somethingthe legislature voted on almost unanimously can change overnight.That’s the nature of politics, I guess.”

And MSA has been able to establish itself in many ways, withstudents achieving national recognition and millions of dollars inscholarships, but also with the school building a record offinancial responsibility, even when students were surprised lastyear with a last-minute a room and board fee.

“Experts said we wouldn’t make it,” Lambert said with a laugh.”And we’ve worked through the financially challenging times, andthe school has grown every year.”

That’s not what she’s the most proud of, though, she said. MSAhas become a haven for creative children to grow and flourish, andthat’s something they might not have gotten at home.

“That’s one of the things that makes MSA unique – it’s got adifferent atmosphere,” Lambert said. “We celebrate diversityinstead of trying to fit students into a ‘school uniform’ mold, andwe see definite results.”

The results come in the form of students who leave for collegewell adjusted and confident in their own abilities, Lambertsaid.

“They emerge as leaders. They get the rewards of beingsuccessful in something that’s different,” she said. “These arejust incredibly unique individuals, and that doesn’t mean justbecause they might have rainbow hair. It’s a way of thinking, oflooking at life.”

And the fact that students are given three hours in theclassroom in their artistic discipline is something that might notwork at just any school. But at MSA, where the teachers lead andchallenge students to find not a single solution, but as manydifferent ones as possible, Lambert said results are evident fromthe beginning.

“We don’t have discipline problems in the classroom,” she said.”They actually want to be there.”

So with state educational officials working hard on findingsomeone to fill Lambert’s shoes after all the dreaming – plus theblood, sweat and tears – that she has put in to make the school asuccess, Lambert said she’s not sure what she’ll do on the firstday she wakes up and is not MSA’s executive director anymore. Shesaid she’ll probably do some part-time teaching at localuniversities or art consulting, but there’s a pressing matter inthe meantime that needs her full attention.

“I just need to rest for a while,” she said with a smile. “Butyou don’t work on something like this for years and then just goaway.”