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In 1968, the Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi Arts Commission as the official grants-making and service agency for the arts. Since then the Commission has broadened its role as an active supporter and promoter of the arts in community life and arts education.

The Commission operates both an administrative side and a programmatic side. The administrative side consists of the executive and deputy directors, the fiscal officer, the systems administrator, the public relations director and the executive assistant. The programmatic side consists of directors over the following areas: Community & Economic Development, Arts in Education, Arts Industry, Folk & Traditional Arts, Whole Schools Initiative and various special initiatives.  The Commission worked tirelessly to provide much-needed assistance to the arts community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area in 2005. 

The Commission is funded in part by the state but also receives substantial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. With these funds, the Commission provides financial support in the form of grants for eligible arts programs and for the work of individual artists.

Such government support for the arts plays a critical role that cannot be replaced by the private sector. While government cannot finance the arts alone, government support does increase private support. Government involvement:

  • Provides for the inclusion of all citizens in diverse artistic experiences;
  • Ties arts to economic development through partnerships and collaborations;
  • Offers credibility and insists on accountability;
  • Ensures openness of decision-making; and
  • Provides leadership in cultural policies.

The Commission is the public agency that serves as a catalyst for private support of the arts.

The role of the Commission, however, goes beyond grants-making. The executive director, hired by the Board of Commissioners, heads the 12-member staff, which not only administers grants but implements policies and provides services. To serve as a catalyst for arts development at the local level, the Commission must:

  • Foster networks of local leaders, artists of all disciplines, arts volunteers and patrons;
  • Consult on community arts development, performing, visual and literary arts, folk arts, and arts education;
  • Provide training in arts management, arts education planning, arts facilities planning and communitywide cultural planning; and
  • Promote broad-based public awareness of the importance of the arts in education and community life.

Through the arts, diverse communities of all sizes can better identify shared values, create vibrant public spaces, and enhance the effectiveness of schools. The arts also attract visitors who leave with a strong, positive image of Mississippi. Fostering excellence in the arts provides the inspiration to generate a higher quality of life for all citizens.