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Lincoln County Public Library gets $20K grant to buy paintings — Artist to unveil work Tuesday

An award-winning artist known for landscape and still-life watercolors will unveil one of his pieces as the Lincoln County Public Library’s newest acquisition to its growing art collection.

“The artist is Dean Mitchell, probably one of the most talented African-American realists painting today,” said Henry Ledet, director of the Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library.

The piece, “Farm Road,” will be unveiled and installed into the permanent art collection at the library Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Mitchell will speak at the reception after an introduction by Brookhaven artist Kim Sessums. Mitchell will also speak to art students at the Mississippi School of the Arts prior to his appearance at the library.

“Farm Road” and another piece by artist Stephen Scott Young were acquired through a Mississippi Arts Commission grant for $20,000 and an additional $15,000 in private donations.

MAC recently awarded $125,800 to organizations across the state to enhance visual art collections through the Dille Fund for Art Acquisition program. The program was created as the result of a bequest from Avery B. Dille Jr., who bequeathed funds to the Mississippi Arts Commission to be used for the acquisition of landscapes and seascapes.

Library board member Helen Lynch said they had to choose art that met the MAC program’s criteria to be considered.

“They want to see what you’re going to do with it and it has to be a certain quality,” she said. “They have to say, ‘We like what you’re choosing.’”

Some of Mitchell’s work hangs in the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. He has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, American Artist, Artist Magazine, Fine Art International and Art News.

He has received the American Watercolor Society Gold Medal, Allied Artist of American Gold Medal in Watercolor and Oil, and for three years in a row the Best in Show Award from the Mississippi Watercolor Society Grand National Competition. 

Sessums, also a nationally-known artist, had seen some of Mitchell’s work in a gallery in Utah.

“Kim selected him because his work could be Lincoln County,” Lynch said. “It looks like one of our farm roads.”

The watercolor will join the two bronze sculptures already on display at the library, one by Sessums and another by the late Bruce Brady.

“We’re trying to build a permanent art collection,” Lynch said.

Lynch stressed that no taxpayer dollars are spent on the artwork, and the grant could only be used for art and specifically landscape and seascape art. The library has also successfully applied for grants that have helped purchase books and improve technology in the past year.

About 300 people a day come through the doors of the library and having art there improves the quality of life for all patrons, she said.

“Art stimulates creativity,” she said. “To me it’s just a balancing act at the library. Libraries are becoming so much more than they used to be. I think of our library as a cultural center.”

Sessums said the public library in suburban and rural America has always been a center of learning, cultural exposure, and creative expression.

“Fine arts is just another version of the creative expression and human accomplishment that makes us unique among all of God’s creations and is an integral part of our human experience and education,” he said. “In a community that cannot afford to have a stand alone art museum, the next most logical public space to collect and exhibit fine art is the public library. There is certainly widespread research and practical data to show that people who participate in and expose themselves to fine art, music, theater and other creative endeavors typically achieve more successful education and experience a more meaningful standard of life.”

Sessums praised the library board for its effort to share art with the public.

“This endeavor began with the courageous and thoughtful physical renovation of the mid century interior design of the Lincoln County Public Library. It now turns its attention to a fine arts permanent collection to be exhibited in a front lobby gallery space with hopes to include in the coming years fine arts in the mediums of sculpture, painting, drawing, print making, photography, pottery, assemblage and the like,” he said.

Young’s work will be unveiled later this year.

Jazz trumpeter Kimble Funchess, a Crystal Springs native, will perform at the reception Tuesday. Funchess is a veteran trumpeter who has performed with B. B. King, The O’Jays, Wilson Pickett, Charlie Pride, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Johnny Taylor and The Fifth Dimensions.

Dean Mitchell