Natchez can’t afford not to have art

Published 11:46 pm Saturday, October 13, 2007

We have the opportunity within our grasp to make Natchez synonymous with other great Southern cities such as Charleston and Savannah by creating an environment for artists to teach, learn and thrive.

Natchez has always been a haven for artists. Since the early 19th Century when Audubon painted here, artists of every medium have called Natchez home. Today, the Miss-Lou is a rich tapestry of the arts: the Natchez Little Theatre, the Natchez Festival of Music, the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Art and Soul, the Natchez Bluff Blues Festival, a myriad of other concerts, plays and performances. The Natchez High School Choir has earned national acclaim. With the recent influx of residents who are ardent patrons of the arts, there is a renewed sense of excitement about creating an arts community in the Miss-Lou.

The lack of fine arts education in our community is our one stumbling block! But we have a tremendous resource willing to help tackle that problem: Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Co-Lin leaders are committed to creating a fine arts education and performance center in Natchez. The facility would be located adjacent to the campus, and allow Co-Lin to offer a wide range of art courses: painting, ceramics, sculpture, musical arts and performance arts. This could become a showplace for Southwest Mississippi and give students a chance to study right here at home.

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This proposal has been presented to the Adams County Board of Supervisors for their consideration. I strongly urge you to contact your supervisor and encourage him to support the arts in our community.

Sadly, the often-used phrase about arts education is: “Can we really afford art?”

My answer is: “Can we afford not to have art?” I don’t think so, and I’m sure many in the Miss-Lou also feel this way.

Stephanie Punches is Mississippi Arts Commissioner and a Natchez resident.