On the Shoofly - Jan/Feb 2018
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
2018 is going to be a watershed year for The Arts, Hancock County. The organization is celebrating its 15th year with more than 300 members, a new slate of officers and ambitious new goals.
Recently elected officers are president Steve Barney, vice-president Ann Madden, and Alicein Schwabacher, who will serve as treasurer. The trio have extensive experience in developing economic development initiatives through the arts.
Barney is the director of the Bay St. Louis Creative Arts Center (101 Central Ave., BSL) and founder of the STEAMpunk Pottery Project – an educational program for children. The STEAMpunk project has been featured on the Mississippi Roads public television show (see video at the end of this story) and hosted by the George Ohr Museum.
On the Shoofly
Schwabacher owns and manages the Mockingbird Café, (110 South Second Street), often called “the town’s living room.” The café has been an Old Town anchor for more than a decade. It features a changing art gallery on its walls and offers space to performing artists for music circles and open mic nights. The Mockingbird has developed a regional reputation as a family-friendly performance spot for top regional singer-songwriters. The last Friday of each month, the Mockingbird also hosts Mr. Atticus's Night Market, with live music and artist selling wares.
For instance, a series of public art projects are already in the works with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. Barney’s also working on plans to host a one-day “economic/arts summit,” to explore ways The Arts can coordinate efforts with other organizations to attract more visitors, residents and businesses over the long haul.
Look for Arts Alive! – a popular multi-media event that takes place in March (March 24, 2018) – to get a face-lift this spring. Produced by The Arts in coordination with Old Town merchants, this year, the event will bring more fine art to the streets. The film festival segment, introduced last year will be expanded as well.
“We’re going to focus on more hands-on demonstration type things for the 2018 Arts Alive,” says Barney. “For instance, I’m also working with artist Vicki Niolet to do a big Steampunk build-out. In real time, we’ll actually be welding together a kinetic sculpture while people watch.”
Also on the table is a tour of artist studios in the fall, and more arts workshops.
“We’re having more classes offered here at the Bay Creative Arts Center all the time,” Barney says, citing everything from pottery classes to flower arranging workshops. “It’s part of a bigger initiative to bring snowbirds down here for the winter for artists in residence opportunities.”
Barney points out that local B&Bs and vacation rentals will benefit by the endeavor, as well as local shops and restaurants.
Membership benefits will be making a huge stride forward in 2018, according to Barney. The Arts is updating its website, integrating more social media and streamlining the members community – making it easier for artists to join and sign up for committees or events.
“We have big social media initiatives planned, including Instagram “takeovers,” and artist of the month features,” Barney explains. “Donna Martin will oversee our gallery exhibitions, standardizing the system to manage gallery openings at the Waveland City Hall and other venues. Our educational outreach will also be expanding.”
Barney says that the Magnolia Bayou project has already borne positive and long-lasting fruit: The Arts has teamed up with the Raw Oyster Marching Club to bring a weekly after-school arts program to the local Boys & Girls club.