Arts and education thrive in Tupelo, thanks to cooperation between local arts organizations, schools and the community.
For more than 25 years, the GumTree Museum of Art has reached out with programs that make art accessible to people of all ages.
“We try to have many different opportunities to bring the community in and learn about the exhibits we have, and teach a little art history as well,” says Kit Stafford, GumTree’s executive director.
One of the museum’s most popular programs is Saturdays at the Museum, in which the Tennessee Valley Authority sponsors a children’s workshop relating to the artist currently on display.
“It helps make children comfortable with the museum and learn a little about art,” Stafford says.
Other programs include ceramic and pottery classes for adults, summer art camps for children, and professional development for school art teachers in the summer. The museum also produces the annual GumTree Festival, a regional, juried fine arts show that has been around for 40 years. The event brings in 85 to 100 area artists each year.
Another of GumTree’s outreach programs is the Main Street Guitar Project, which showcases the work of local artists, including students. So far, 30 guitars have been installed around Tupelo.
Community Theater Thrives
Tupelo Community Theatre (TCT) stages several events throughout the year that bring live theater up close and personal to area students. Each spring, artists are brought in from all over the world to teach elementary and middle schoolers about theater, says Tom Booth, executive director of TCT.
Every July, TCT hosts a youth theater camp, where students are divided into groups and rotate through art, theater and music classes, in addition to learning what it takes to put on a play. By camp’s end, the students have rehearsed and performed a play at the Lyric Theatre.
TCT also works with Tupelo’s Junior Auxiliary to take theater into schools within an hour of Tupelo. The joint effort is funded by a grant from actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman’s Rock River Foundation. TCT is a participant in the Tupelo Reads program, which encourages everyone in town to read a selected book and attend special community programs relating to it. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom was chosen as the book for 2011.
Bringing History to Life
At the Oren Dunn City Museum, the past is celebrated with an eye toward the future. The museum has year-round tours and living history exhibits to illustrate life during the early days of Tupelo and the region. Each October, different artisans and presenters turn back the clock to the 1860s and demonstrate 19th-century crafts, including blacksmithing, soap making and butter churning. There are programs for all ages, with a focus on young people.
“I want them to develop a lifelong love of history," says Janice Anthony, the museum’s educational director. "I want to catch them while they’re young. It’s very important.”
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