MSA, students need stability,not uncertainty

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another legislative attempt to close the Mississippi School ofthe Arts in Brookhaven casts unnecessary uncertainty on theinstitution’s future at a time when it is growing and trying tobuild a firm financial foundation.

Rep. Cecil Brown, chairman of the powerful House EducationCommittee, has again introduced a bill to close the arts school inBrookhaven and relocate it to Columbus and the MississippiUniversity for Women, home of the state’s school for math andscience. His bill would also create a feasibility study on thepossibility of a nursing school for the Brookhavenfacilities.

That the bill has come up again – following similar failed attemptsin the past two legislative sessions, on top of prior efforts tosimply close the institution – is unfortunate because of thenegative impact it has on MSA’s attempts to grow and possiblylessen its financial reliance on the state.

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It should be remembered that seeking financial contributions fromprivate sources, be they native Mississippians who have foundsuccess in the world of arts and entertainment or other supportersof the arts, was a key component of the arts school’s mission whenit was created in the late 1990s. Those funds are harder to come byif potential contributors do not know if the arts school will be inplace from one year to the next.

Furthermore, MSA leaders have worked hard to secure grants andother non-state allocated funding to preserve and renovate campusbuildings for educational use. The ability to obtain those kinds offunds is made more difficult when MSA’s future remains cloudy dueto repeated talk of closure or relocation.

And what about the students the school is supposed to serve?Enrollment continues to grow, but students could rethink theirdecision to seek admission to the residential school and stay homeif they believe it is in jeopardy of being closed.

The Mississippi School of the Arts’ reputation as a qualityproducer of outstanding artisans is growing. And more and morepeople are starting to notice.

It is sad and troubling that arts school publicity also includesunnecessary speculation on the facility’s future.