Group hopes new space will makes the arts accessible

Published 1:31 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Artists Association is a group of local working artists, and now they are working in a new space.

The group celebrated the grand opening of their new studio space inside the Priest House Friday.

The Natchez Artists Association has long had studio space in the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center but recently started looking for a new space to move to.

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That is when they were led to their new location.

“We wanted to provide a closer knit area for our artists,” said Brenda Hicks, president of the Natchez Artists Association. “Being in the downtown area, it is easier to get to.”

The Priest House location allows for about 16 artist spaces and a multipurpose area, which the group will use for hosting workshops and classes.

Hicks said that having so many artists in one location creates a creative atmosphere.

“Everyone so far has loved it. Working so closely with other artists creates a great energy,” Hicks said. “To have (the studio) full would be amazing.”

Hicks said that many of the more than 20 working artists that are members of the group have moved their workspace into the downtown building.

Wathen Doggett moved her workspace from her home to the Priest House soon after the club acquired the building.

“It is an incredible happening that we are able to be there,” Doggett said. “I called Brenda right away, and asked to see the space. Right that minute, I knew that I wanted to work here.”

The group is leasing the antebellum building from the Natchez Garden Club. Hicks said after a few modifications, the location was perfect for an artists studio.

“The building has worked great,” Hicks said. “We took down most of the doors so the artists can see other artists working.”

The abundance of windows is another attribute that the artists appreciated about the studio space.

“The building is just perfect because of the lighting,” Hicks said. “Every area has ample lighting.”

The new space also allows for flexibility for the individual artist. Doggett said that she has just recently gotten her space fully organized and set up to her liking.

“Different artists use it in different ways,” Doggett said. “Everyone is free to use it in the way that they need and want to.”

Doggett, who moved to Natchez just four years ago, was impressed with the strong artist community within the city.

“There is already such a strong love for the arts in this town,” Doggett said. “In a town of this size and economic bracket, it is very rare to find people that embrace the arts, whether it be dance or theater or the visual arts, the way Natchez already does.”

Hicks said Natchez Artists Association is always looking for new members and supporters. She said the group already has several supporters that are not working artists. Anyone interested in joining or supporting the group should e-mail Hicks at

“There is such an appreciation for the arts that people want to support us even if they aren’t artists,” she said.

The enrichment of the current artists and the education and encouragement of aspiring artists is the main goal of the Natchez Artist Association.

Hicks hopes the acquisition of the new space and a strong working relationship with ArtsNatchez, a downtown art gallery, will allow them to reach their goal. The two are working together to give education classes and workshops and to provide display space for completed works.

The Natchez Artist Association hosted their first workshop on Saturday, an introduction to oil painting, and the group hopes to be able to offer more. A follow-up class to the oil painting class is planned but not scheduled yet.

“We are trying enrich our community through the arts,” Hicks said. “Our goal is to continue to do workshops to further art education.”

Currently all workshops will have a registration fee, but Hicks hopes that future classes will be readily available to everyone.

“We hope to be able to provide scholarships to students with teacher recommendations,” Hicks said. “And maybe offer classes free of charge to people who aren’t able to afford them.

“We want to make the arts accessible to everyone.”