Dolly meets Bay St. Louis - can you imagine a more delightful combination? Find out all the happenings!
- story by Ana Balka
Samples of the Art Show at Smith & Lens
Dolly as an inspiration - in more ways than one!
“I hope we have a hundred or more Dollys walking around,” said Alicein Wonderland of Mockingbird Cafe, where Poplarville bluegrass band Cross Ties will perform on the outdoor stage in full western regalia.
No justification is needed for throwing a party in honor of Dolly Parton, but Dolly’s well-known philanthropy inspired Smith & Lens co-owners Ann Madden and Sandy Maggio when they brainstormed a follow-up to Frida Fest, which brought enthusiastic crowds to the Bay in celebration of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo last July.
The Dollywood Foundation runs Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, close to Dolly’s girlhood home. According to its website the park provides over 3000 jobs and hosts more than two million visitors annually. In 1995 the foundation launched the Imagination Library, which gives more than 10 million books to children under the age of five every year in communities across North America and the United Kingdom.
Dolly’s work in literacy and her commitment to giving back to her community were things that Madden, who is a photographer, and silversmith Maggio wanted to promote in Bay St. Louis.
“A big thing that draws us to Dolly is she came from Pigeon Forge, and she has brought so much back to that community,” says Sandy. “Their economy has boomed because of her. She shined a light on them. Plus, she seems game for anything!”
Smith & Lens opened in January 2015 as a venue for Madden and Maggio’s work and as a place for them to curate shows by other regional and nationally known artists. But larger participatory events like Frida Fest and “Surrender” — a mass collaboration in which artists “surrender” an incomplete work and then finish the work of another participant — are events that will go on annually, and which reveal community-building vision that goes beyond commercial aspiration.
“Bringing back to the community is big,” Sandy says. “We strive consciously to bring visibility to the Bay. We want people to know what’s here.”
“We want the community to be a part of it,” she says of Smith & Lens’s events. “We try to be super, super inclusive with everything we do. It’s not always about selling the art; it’s about just being exposed to it.”
And in case you were wondering, Dolly has indeed been notified of the citywide shindig, and is “Interested! As are all of her impersonators,” laughs Ann.
Will she show up?
“There are rumors,” says Sandy.