Donors support art in SFA programming

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

By Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi

While food nourishes the body, art nourishes the soul. The Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi expertly blends both into programming, and supporters believe the two will continue to pair well together for years to come.

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Impressed by the SFA’s use of art to enhance the presentation of Southern food culture, two donors – the 21c Museum Hotel group and another patron who wishes to remain anonymous – recently committed major gifts in support of performing and visual arts at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual symposium.

“We showcase artistic expression in ways that encourage annual symposium attendees to engage with issues like environment, identity, gender, class and race in new and challenging ways,” said SFA Director John T. Edge. “We are thrilled that these two donors have recognized our efforts and have chosen to align themselves with us through their support of our programs.”

The 21c Museum Hotel group first participated in the SFA symposium in 2007.

“After a weekend of enlightening discussion, food and drink, we left feeling a renewed kinship to the South,” said Sarah Robbins, chief hospitality officer. “We’ve returned each year with our growing family of chefs. We always depart with a full belly and a better understanding of the responsibility and fortune of being a part of the region.”

The brainchild of contemporary art collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c was founded in Louisville, Kentucky, with the mission of making contemporary art accessible to the public. The result was a boutique hotel combined with a contemporary art museum, open free of charge to the public, and restaurant Proof on Main.

The company operates five properties, each one a place where contemporary art challenges, amuses and provokes new ideas. The group’s gift will sustain annual art installations exhibited during the SFA’s symposium.

“We hope this gift will help expose a new audience to innovative art and ideas, providing a visual context for the important discussions happening at the symposium and beyond,” Robbins said.

“At 21c Museum Hotel, we engage our team, our guests and the community through contemporary art, cultural programming and food. These are all opportunities to discover and to spark conversation around topical ideas. Through these communal experiences of discovery, ideas are born and spread. SFA’s mission to address complex cultural issues is complementary to ours, and we are thrilled to partner with them on this important initiative.”

To Donate

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to support the SFA or the Center for the Study of Southern Culture by mailing a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Nikki Neely Davis, development officer for the CSSC at 662-915-6678 or