Local woman to sit on state arts board

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2007

NATCHEZ — She might not be an artist herself, but Natchez resident Stephanie Punches will have a hand in painting the future of arts in the state.

Gov. Haley Barbour recently appointed Punches to the Mississippi Arts Commission.

The 15-member commission works to stimulate and encourage performing, visual and literary arts.

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Punches was on the board from 1994 to 1999, when her five-year term limit came to an end.

In her years off the board, she became involved in helping start the recently formed Natchez Council for Arts and Culture, which has already funded repairs to the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Building.

“By getting back on the arts commission, I felt I would be able to help those ideas (of the council) to work,” Punches said.

Punches said she knew she had been nominated for the position but was surprised when she was told two weeks ago she would be part of the commission.

“I was really excited,” she said. “Lots of people were nominated, and I was not sure I’d be the one (chosen).”

In a written statement, Barbour praised Punches’ enthusiasm.

“Stephanie has a true love for Mississippi arts and culture, and I welcome her back to this commission as a great asset and friend,” Barbour said.

With a background in business administration, Punches doesn’t describe herself as an artist, just an avid supporter of the arts.

“I’ve just always been interested in it,” she said. “I think art affects everyone every day. Art is everywhere.”

During her previous term on the board, the commission supported programs such as bringing arts into schools. One of the more memorable programs was supporting art curriculums in prisons, she said.

“We really got lots of wonderful results,” she said. “Prisoners there realized they had artistic talents, and it opened up as something to do when they got out of prison. It gave them a career.”

Punches’ first commission meeting will be Sept. 18 in Oxford.