Welcome to the 2020 State Arts Conference!

Beginning October 7, videos will be added to this page as virtual conference offerings and will be available for two weeks after the conference. That way, you can view and learn when it’s convenient for you. We hope you enjoy listening to and learning from our speakers.

Join the conversation on social media using #msartscon2020!

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in the videos below do not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Arts Commission.

*Conference Surprise*
Enjoy lunch with the hosts of MPB’s Deep South Dining!

In a cooking show-style format, Malcolm White and Carol Puckett of MPB’s Deep South Dining show us how to make a delightful classic lunch combo using common ingredients and unusual kitchen tools.

You can follow along at home as Carol and Malcolm make a grilled Reuben sandwich and a cucumber and white onion salad. Don’t have a panini pan? Just use a clothes iron, like Malcolm. See the salad recipe below from chef John Currence’s new cookbook Tailgreat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020:

Adapting Now: The Arts in a COVID-19 World

Find out more about Wednesday’s panel and keynote speakers by reading their bios here.

Welcome Message
Incoming MAC Executive Director Sarah Story

Keynote: Dr. Ebony Lumumba

In this welcoming address entitled “Arts in the Time of Trauma,” Dr. Ebony Lumumba calls us to consider how we define the arts and why they matter. She examines the challenges of the pandemic and encourages us to see an opportunity for the arts to respond to the collective trauma we have experienced as a people. She urges us to recognize the necessity of the arts to the survival of humanity and the creative legacy we leave behind.

Preparing for and Coping with Emergencies Facing the Arts 

Each of us faces new challenges as we learn to navigate the unique obstacles posed by the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19. As we forge ahead in this new reality, we recognize the necessity of planning for the unexpected. Both individual artists and arts organizations will benefit from this discussion as an introduction to the emergency planning process and will learn methods to respond and recover from the impacts of this global pandemic and future emergencies. 


  • Tom Clareson: Project Director, Performing Arts Readiness
  • Carrie Cleveland: Education and Outreach Manager, CERF+The Artists Safety Net

Moderator: Kristen Brandt, MAC Arts Industry Director

Bridging the Distance: The Arts in the Time of Corona

Panelists discuss strategies for engaging audiences through virtual platforms and socially distanced events. They also share how their own artistic practices help them in this time of quarantine as well as equip them to reach out to others.


  • Wayne Andrews: Director, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Chair, Mississippi Presenters Network
  • Kwame Braxton: Visual Artist and Ancho, Digital Fabrication/Print Shop, the Community Production Cooperative (CPC)
  • Shanina Carmichael: Teaching and Performing Artist specializing in the songs, rhythms and dances of West Africa
  • Kinney Ferris: Executive Directive, Visit Oxford
  • Erin Mulligan: Interim Executive Director, ArtPlace Mississippi
  • Francine Thomas Reynolds: Artistic Director, New Stage Theatre 

Moderator: John Bateman, Executive Director of the Starkville Area Arts Council

Day 1 Social Media Challenge: We invite you to share an image on social media that illustrates how the arts have helped you through this time of crisis or how your arts organization has adapted to the challenges of 2020. Be sure to tag the Mississippi Arts Commission and use #msartscon2020!

Thursday, October 8

I.D.E.A. Now: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in the Arts

Find out more about Thursday’s panel and keynote speakers by reading their bios here.

Keynote: Aimee Nezhukumathil

In times of struggle, creative individuals like poet and writer Aimee Nezhukumatathil remind us of all the wonderous things just within our grasp. Reconnect with the beauty and kinship found in the natural world as the author reads an excerpt from her recently published book World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whales Sharks, and Other Astonishments. This essay collection was published with the support of a 2020 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Artist Fellowship in creative nonfiction.

Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion 

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has developed a special initiative called “Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion” that provides museum leadership personnel with training, resources and support to assist museums in becoming more representative and inclusive of the communities they serve. The AAM is offering this program in 5 cities across the U.S., and Jackson, Miss. (and surrounding region) is one of the chosen cities. MAC staff spoke with AAM’s Director of Inclusion Andrew Plumley, as well as four museum leaders based in Jackson, Laurel and Greenwood. The panelists discuss their experiences and lessons learned from their participation in the program.


  • George Bassi: Executive Director, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
  • Betsy Bradley: Executive Director, Mississippi Museum of Art
  • Katie Mills: Executive Director, Museum of the Mississippi Delta
  • Andrew Plumley: Director of Inclusion, American Alliance of Museums
  • Okolo Rashid: Co-founder and President, International Museum of Muslim Cultures

Co-Moderators: Kristen Brandt, MAC Arts Industry Director, and Maria Zeringue, MAC Folk Arts Director

Public Art + Civic Practice 

In this session, artists gather with representatives from governments, non-profit organizations and communities to discuss their recent projects at the intersection of public art and civic practice. You’ll hear how participants built partnerships and collaborations, their work to use the arts as a tool for social change and tips and lessons learned for harnessing the power of public art in your community.


  • Talameika Brice: Visual artist, designer, photographer, filmmaker, activist
  • Travis Crabtree: Urban Designer, City of Jackson, Department of Planning and Development; Project Manager, Fertile Ground Public Art Project
  • Eli Childers, Visual artist
  • Thomas Gregory: State Coordinator, Mississippi Main Street Association
  • Rob Hill: State Director, Human Rights Campaign
  • Ricardo Moody: Visual artist and teacher
  • Heidi Pitre: Visual artist
  • Salam Rida: Urban Designer, City of Jackson, Department of Planning and Development; Project Manager, Fertile Ground Public Art Project.
  • Candice Salyers: Assistant Professor, School of Performing and Visual Arts, University of Southern Mississippi, dancer

Co-Moderators: Leslie Barker, MAC Arts-based Community Development Director and Melody Moody Thortis, MAC Grants Director

Voices at the Table: Reflecting Your Community through Your Season and Programming  

Panelists discuss the vital work of creating programming that reflects and reaches their entire community. They share personal stories, challenges, and lessons learned as they strive to grow their organization’s inclusivity.


  • Francine Thomas Reynolds: Artistic Director of New Stage Theatre 
  • Sara Guice: Executive Director of The Friends of Mary C
  • Ekundayo Bandele: Founder and CEO of Hattiloo Theatre
  • Anthony Siracusa: Director of Community Engagement, University of Mississippi


  • Sharon Miles: Education Director at New Stage Theatre
  • Monique Davis: Managing Director of the Center for Art and Public Exchange: Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Mississippi Museum of Art

Day 2 Social Media Challenge: We invite you to share an image or your thoughts on social media about the intersection of the arts and social change. How can the arts be a catalyst for change? Be sure to tag the Mississippi Arts Commission and use #msartscon2020!

Friday, October 9

How-to’s Now: Surviving and Thriving in 2020

Find out more about Friday’s panel and keynote speakers by reading their bios here.

Day 3 Social Media Challenge: What new skill have you learned in 2020? Whether it’s baking sourdough or hosting virtual events, we want to hear about your new skills. Share an image or your thoughts on this topic on social media. Be sure to tag the Mississippi Arts Commission and use #msartscon2020!

Promoting Yourself and Your Work Online  

An artist, a comedienne and a social media expert discuss the current social media landscape, positioning yourself for success, avoiding common pitfalls and how digital media engagement can lead to sales and gigs.


  • Rita Brent: Rita Brent Comedy
  • Paul Fayard: Paul Fayard Art 
  • Sophie McNeil Wolf: Digital Media Manager for Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning; Co-owner, Find it in Fondren

Moderator: Anna Ehrgott, MAC Communications Director 

Arts Education: Authentic Connections in a Virtual Environment 

In this session, presenters from three diverse organizations will share experiences and knowledge gained when shifting from face-to-face interactions to a virtual format. The presenters will offer insight, encouragement and share their #1 tip to assist you in making the same transition.


  • Michael Beattie: Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
  • Tomeka Cheatham: Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi
  • Shelley Ritter: Delta Blues Museum

Moderator: Charlotte Smelser, MAC Arts Education Director

The Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program: Experiences and Take-Aways  

This panel brings together five participants from MAC’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship program, a grants program that supports master traditional artists to work one-on-one with a student to teach aspects of the tradition they share. The artists in this group talk about the variety of art forms they practice, including blues guitar and percussion, pottery, West African drumming and woodturning. The artists share lessons learned during the apprenticeship and what makes this mode of learning important. 


  • Robert Kimbrough Sr.: Led apprenticeship with Benjamin DuPriest on Cotton Patch Soul Blues percussion 
  • Samuel Long, Led apprenticeship with Dustin Barrick on Woodturning
  • Brian Newman: Apprenticed with Robert Pickenpaugh on Production Potter
  • Libby Rae Watson: Apprenticed with Earl “Joe” Ayers on Cotton Patch Hill Country Blues guitar
  • Carolina Whitfield-Smith: Apprenticed with Asante Nalls on Dudunba drum

Moderator: Maria Zeringue, MAC Folk and Traditional Arts Director