Thursday, June 04, 2009

Guest Blogger: George Bassi

Next Saturday, the cultural eyes of Mississippi will be focused on Laurel and the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art as we host the 30th anniversary celebration of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. The celebration not only includes an awards dinner but also an exhibition featuring MIAL award winners in Visual Art and Photography over the past 30 years.

Drawn from both public and private collections, this exhibit will be on view June 13 – August 2, 2009, at LRMA and will be a virtual “Who’s Who” of Mississippi artists, including works by William Dunlap, Sam Gilliam, Birney Imes, Mildred Wolfe, Maude S. Clay, Eudora Welty, Wyatt Waters, and Charles Carraway. The list of award recipients is a strong reflection of the talents of Mississippians and the artistic heritage of our state.

The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters was founded in 1978 by a few discerning individuals, including former Governor William Winter and Dr. Cora Norman, both of Jackson; Dr. Aubrey Lucas and Dr. Noel Polk, both of Hattiesburg; and Mrs. Keith McLean of Cleveland. They knew that among Mississippi's greatest riches are our artists, writers, and musicians, who must be supported, nurtured, and recognized.

The prestigious awards, first made in 1980, are presented in seven categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Visual Art, Musical Composition (Concert), Musical Composition (Popular), Photography, and Poetry.

The Institute's juried competition is one of a kind in the state. Carefully selected judges, chosen from out of state, are prominent in their fields. Supported by Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning, MIAL is privately funded, self-perpetuating, and non-profit.

Those being recognized this year include two Lifetime Achievement winners: painter Marshall Bouldin and writer Elizabeth Spencer. Other 2009 MIAL winners include Howard Bahr (Fiction), Steve Rouse (Music Composition – Classical/Concert), 3 Doors Down (Music Composition – Contemporary/Popular), Douglas A. Blackmon (Nonfiction), Jane Rule Burdine (Photography), Brooks Haxton (Poetry), and H. C. Porter (Visual Arts).

A highlight of the events on Saturday will be readings and book-signings at 4:00 p.m. by this year’s winners in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photography, and visual art, as well as the two lifetime achievement honorees. The readings and signings will be held in the Museum lobby and are open to the public.

The MIAL Awards Dinner will be held at LRMA this Saturday, June 13, beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Lower Level Galleries followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the American Gallery. Tickets for the Awards Dinner are $50 per person; call the museum at 601-649-6374 for more information.

George Bassi is Director of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

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