Smith ready to pass conference to new director
Published 12:09 am Friday, May 29, 2015
By Mary Kathryn Carpenter
NATCHEZ — After 26 years directing the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Carolyn Vance Smith is retiring.
On June 30, Smith will pass on the responsibility of planning the NLCC to Brett Brinegar.
Email newsletter signup
The first NLCC was held in 1990 as a way to earn Copiah-Lincoln Community College a new facility.
Smith said the first conference was successful in earning the new building with the help of a celebrity native to Mississippi, as well as other speakers and attendees.
“Miss (Eudora) Welty helped me put on the first conference by agreeing to be on the program herself,” Smith said. “Her name is so magical to so many people. When people would ask, ‘Who is going to be on the program with me?’ and I would say, ‘Eudora Welty,’ they would say, ‘Count me in. I have always wanted to meet her.’ ”
However, Co-Lin President Ronnie Nettles attributes the accomplishments of the conference to Smith, herself.
“She’s an incredible, dedicated lady,” Nettles said. “What she was able to accomplish is pretty impressive and rare, and certainly she was the person who made the conference such a success.”
But making the conference a success was no easy matter. Smith said that with her titles of founder and co-chairman came many responsibilities.
To make the conference flow smoothly, Smith said she had to fund raise, get support from people nationwide, decide on themes years in advance, and line up speakers and concerts.
That’s not even half of it.
While doing all the scheduling and organizing, Smith made sure the majority of the conference was free to any cinema, arts or humanities lover who would want to attend.
“The only ticketed events are meals and some of the bigger concerts,” Smith said. “We like to pay for everything so it is absolutely free, so that anyone, no matter their financial background, is welcome.”
Many of Smith’s visions for the conference will live on as it continues under new leadership, but Smith’s dedication will be remembered in other ways, as well.
The Carolyn Vance Smith Center for Natchez Literary Studies is being placed in the Willie Mae Dunn Library on Co-Lin’s Natchez campus.
“I burst into tears when it was announced,” Smith said. “It’s very humbling.”
The collection will house a variety of books, papers, photographs and other items from the first 26 years of the NLCC. The main theme of the collection is works by writers, who have been influenced by Natchez.
Smith is providing some additions to the collection from her personal collection of Natchez-related literature and art, including DVDs of each NLCC and several books.
Among those books is a signed copy of “Eudora Welty Photographs,” given to Smith by Welty herself during the first NLCC.
“For Carolyn Vance Smith, in gratitude for the wonderful hospitality I was shown everywhere in Natchez, and for the tribute the fine events have to the work of Mississippi writer,” the signature read.
Welty signed her name and dated it June 9, 1990.
Smith will work as a volunteer to continue collecting items for the collection and will provide assistance in the planning and organization of the 2016 NLCC.