The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Local renaissance: MSU, Starkville arts culture resurges

Emma Katherine Hutto
929 art show

Sunlight streamed in the unlatched garage door of the metal shop in Howell Hall on a Friday night in Starkville, Miss.  

Students meandered the stark room haphazardly enveloped in tools, metal scraps and a plethora of grunge. A small corner of the room contrasted the vast interior. A single monochromatic white wall met the blonde wood panels lining the floor. The work of Mark Slawson, Paul Prudhomme and Dupree Bostic, junior art majors with concentrations in graphic design   at Mississippi State University, incorporated the sole color illuminating the bare walls. 

The pop-up art show is a paradigm of the art subculture that has steadily emerged in Starkville over the past few years. Slawson, whose paintings ranged from an azure man with a rosary adorned around his neck to a photo displaying a lexicon of alcohol in polychromatic glory, said his work is a direct correlation of the lessons relayed to him by the faculty of MSU’s graphic design program.

Prudhomme said the supportive nature of the artistic community in Starkville allows artists to carefully and creatively hone their work. 

“I think currently, and for the future, it is like a little incubator,” Prudhomme said.

He explained there is a sense of consideration among the community, and the community is able to share its work with Starkvillians to improve the tastes of the community as a whole.

Crockett Bowie, senior majoring in mechanical engineering, attended the pop-up show. He represents the fragment of the community which serves as patrons of the arts and said the growing arts community in Starkville helps disintegrate MSU’s stereotypes.  

“I think it is helping progress Starkville and put Starkville on the map in different ways,” Bowie said. “I think that in Mississippi and surrounding areas, Starkville gets criticism for being an ag school, and this helps us move in a different direction.” 

Stationed behind a table of intricately designed prints and screen-printed eco-friendly T-shirts at Nine-twentyNine coffee bar’s art show this past Saturday, Lorrin Webb, a graduate of MSU’s graphic design program, explained the innovation that has propelled Starkville’s art community in the past year. Webb, chair of the art in public places committee for the Starkville Area Arts Council, heads the Mural Collective of Starkville.

When Webb became chair last fall, the art in public places committee consisted of a spattering of art shows at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership building located on Main Street. However, Webb said she felt more could be done to engage the public and build bridges between artists, students and their community.

The Mural Collective of Starkville is the first rung in that ladder. The mural project is a two-part venture between Starkville and an incorporation of outside influences. 

“We talk about design ideas, and we come up with the designs collectively, and the other side of it is hiring professional artists to come in,” Webb explained.

The Mural Collective’s first mural will adorn the dilapidated gas station adjourning Stromboli’s on University Drive and an innovative artist will return to Mississippi to paint the inaugural piece. 

“A really dear friend of mine is coming in from South Korea. He is actually from Mississippi, but he’s been teaching there,” Webb said. “He’s been painting all over the place — the Berlin Wall, in Thailand, Cambodia.”

The mural project has received continual green lights from the Starkville community with no less than five store owners requesting murals on their store exteriors and city officials in full-support of the project. The project comes on the heels of Governor Phil Bryant’s December proclamation that 2014 is the ‘year of the creative economy’ in Mississippi.

The project has a strong commitment to students of all ages. Its next project incorporates a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Starkville into a mural overlaying the breezeway which connected public parking to Main Street.

The MSU student population had a strong presence at an art show located in the basement of Nine-twentyNine coffee bar Saturday night. Bonnie Brumley, senior fine arts major with a concentration in ceramics, stood behind a plethora of earth-toned ceramic productions. She said the support of establishments like Nine-twentyNine gives students the idiosyncratic experience of selling their work free of commission, which is an opportunity rare to student artists. 

“I think that’s really great because it really encourages younger people to be in Starkville and recognize this place as a place where you could potentially sell your work and be successful,” Brumley said.

Webb also works with Mississippi Modern to organize a festival for the state as a whole. Austin Grove, junior graphic design major, serves as an intern for Mississippi Modern. He explained the company was established to facilitate a communication channel between artists in Mississippi.

“They’re looking to get some murals painted, to get some commissions for artists in Mississippi and start a network to identify bookstore space and art galleries in Mississippi,” Grove said.

Mississippi Modern aims to incorporate the music-side of artistry into the Starkville community this Saturday with its Micro-Fest, a conglomeration of music, fashion, art and craft beer all tied into a single evening in the Cotton District.

The new company embodies where the art culture in Starkville heads, which Webb said is toward a community dedicated to supporting numerous avenues of creativity and the diversity of interests held by the citizens of Starkville.

“There’s this whole kind of awakening happening all over the state right now. I think people are really embracing and becoming more open-minded and more creative-minded,” Webb exclaimed. “I think it’s just a matter of time before it completely explodes.”  


Editor’s note: Austin Grove is incoming graphic design editor at The Reflector.

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Local renaissance: MSU, Starkville arts culture resurges