photo credit: Bruce Newman
By now I’m sure you’ve heard the news that the county pulled funds from the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council due largely in part to last week’s Scratch and Sniff art exhibit. I wasn’t the only one who was shocked to hear the news. Those around Oxford who have directly (I just held my EatingOxford.com event at The Powerhouse last week and attend many events there throughout the year)—and indirectly benefited from the events held at The Powerhouse quickly rallied together to support YAC.
There’s an event planned to raise funds for YAC. It will take place on October 18th right before the Three Blind Wines event begins at The Powerhouse. Full details are available here.
A Facebook group has also been set up called Oxford’s Got YAC’s Back. You can find it here.
In the meantime, I’ve included the full article from today’s Oxford Eagle below.
NEED FOR ART
County pulls YAC funds
Supervisors slam Arts Council for controversial art show
By Alyssa Schnugg
“It’s trash,” District 5 Supervisor Ray Sockwell said in regards to the recent art show, “Scratch and Sniff,” that was scheduled to run at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center last week, but which was later moved to a private location.
Sockwell admitted to not seeing the art show and based his reaction on “what I heard about it.”
Sockwell was one of three supervisors who voted Monday to not approve the $15,000 annual appropriation to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. Supervisors Lloyd Oliphant and Robert Blackmon sided with Sockwell. Supervisors Johnny Morgan and Mike Pickens voted to support the appropriations; however, the 3-2 vote against the funding was enough to pull the money for YAC.
Following the outrage from the community resulting from the funding cut, Blackmon has now requested to have the matter put back on the agenda for the supervisors’ November meeting for further discussion.
“I’m not going to support spending taxpayer’s money on something like that,” Sockwell said after Monday’s meeting.
Show moved last week
A one-night-only art exhibition called “Scratch and Sniff” by Katherine Rhodes Fields, a local artist and printmaking instructor at the University of Mississippi, was initially scheduled to open last week at the Powerhouse.
However, Mayor Pat Patterson requested the show not be exhibited at the partially publicly funded Powerhouse after he received six complaints from members of the community before the exhibit even opened. As a result, Fields’ show was moved across the street to a tent set up outside the Main Squeeze restaurant.
Oliphant said he would like to see YAC formulate a better plan to schedule shows that are appropriate for each and every citizen. While he stopped short of saying the “Scratch and Sniff” art show was the only reason he chose to withhold the funds, he said the incident was the “icing on the cake.”
“There are plenty of other nonpublic venues for shows like ‘Scratch and Sniff,’” he said. “It doesn’t need to be in a public building. We’re not precluding the art world from being able to display their goods. But it’s not fair for me as a government representative to take public tax dollars and appropriate funding for something that someone feels is an inappropriate use of their money if I can stop it.”
Pickens said the definition of the word “art” is different for everyone.
“I’m not in the position to quantify or qualify what art is,” Pickens said. “That’s why I voted for it.”
Pickens said he isn’t sure why the county supports YAC, other than it’s something that’s gone on for several years.
“I feel like it’s a good program,” he said. “I know they have their own fundraising mechanism, but it’s like the dog shelter — it’s a part of the community we need to support.”
Morgan said he’s always supported the arts community and plans on continuing to do so.
Sockwell, Oliphant and Morgan were voted out of office during the primary and runoff elections this summer, while Blackmon and Pickens still have November’s election to contend with, with Pickens facing Independent candidate John Davis and Republican candidate Bill Plunk. Blackmon faces Independent candidate Joanne Wilkinson.
Reversal of decision
According to state statute, the new incoming board is not obligated to follow whatever the old board has voted on. If the future supervisors choose, they can bring the discussion back to the table and reverse the vote to grant the appropriation to YAC.
Blackmon said he based his decision to revisit Monday’s vote to cut funding on “some things he’d heard” that he didn’t think were appropriate, but he failed to mention the “Scratch and Sniff” show by name.
“No one came today and talked to us and there are some things I’m unclear on,” Blackmon said. “I’d be happy to talk to (Wayne Andrews, director of the Arts Council) and we can go from there.”
It took only a short time for the word about the supervisors’ decision to spread.
Andrews said $15,000 is a significant amount of money for any organization to lose.
“It will cause us to re-evaluate our budget and will have an impact on the community programs we run all year, such as free art camps for children, art classes for adults, dance classes, classes for seniors — we run 320 days of art programs a year.”
Andrews said he didn’t expect the county to judge the Arts Council so harshly, considering the controversial show was moved to another location. Sockwell said the show was only moved after being “forced” by Patterson.
Making the move
“That’s not true,” Andrews said. “Once we received some feedback, and we talked to the artist, she agreed she did not want her art to jeopardize what the Arts Council provides to the community. She was more than happy to take the show somewhere else to relieve that burden. No one was forced to do anything.”
Andrews said he can respect the opinions of others who weren’t thrilled with Fields’ show, but one art show that was originally planned to be in the back room of the Powerhouse, versus 320 days of programming that is suitable for all ages, should balance things out.
“I think the Arts Council reflects the entire community,” Andrews said. “I respect everyone who elected to say the show was not for them. It’s how we can judge what type of shows to bring to the community is by the community feedback.”
Andrews said he had not heard from any of the supervisors in regards to the art show prior to Monday’s vote.
“They’ve always been very supportive,” he said.
After hearing about the supervisor’s decision, Fields said she was disappointed.
“It makes me very sad to hear that news,” she said.