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Mississippi Arts Commission Lives to Grant Another Day

Two bills intended to fold the Mississippi Arts Commission into the Mississippi Development Authority died in the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.

Painter and quilter Patricia Wynn in Lawrence, supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission (2001) (photo by Larry Morrisey, courtesy Mississippi Arts Commission)

Mississippi celebrates a victory for public arts funding today, following the news that its grant-making agency for the arts has survived Republican lawmakers’ efforts to dissolve it. Yesterday, two bills intended to fold the duties of the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) into the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) died in both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees due to the fact that they were not brought up by either chairman. January 31 was the deadline for bills to come out of committee.

“This is a victory for public support of the arts in America,” MAC Executive Director Malcolm White told Hyperallergic. “This is a victory for the arts community. It’s a good coming-together for those of us who support the philosophy of public support of the arts and keeping public support of the arts apolitical.

“We receive enormous support from Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and progressives, and that’s reassuring to us that what we do has value. We believe that public support of the arts is an American value and a Mississippi value, and we feel very good about where we are today.”

The Mississippi Arts Commission turns 50 next year. (image via rts.ms.gov)

Although the bills did not move forward in yesterday’s meetings, lawmakers could reconstitute them again this session. The chance is rare, White said, though he’s remaining cautious until the session’s end in April.

“We do understand that there are forces out here that do not see the world as we do,” White said. “So we have to be vigilant and mindful that there’s still work to do. So we go back to work and focus on trying to understand the reasons why people brought a bill forward to eliminate us. We’re hopeful we can get to the bottom of what that’s about, build bridges, and work on partnerships so all Mississippians will have access and equity to the arts. That’s our goal. Not to have political fights or be distracted by these potential politics of the arts.”

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