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Space to create at the Powerhouse

The warming weather brings a rush of events in Lafayette County. Every sport seems to be in season. Outdoor markets of arts, crafts and foods bloom in various locations.

A down pouring of fundraisers, cultural events, and festivals wash over the calendar. Prior to the flood of activity there is a build up as painters, dancers, actors and festival organizers struggle to find space to create. The visibility of art during this season hides the fact that a lack of places to create art exist. Many of our visual artist create temporary spaces in their homes transforming a kitchen table daily from utilitarian tool to studio between breakfast, lunch and after dinner.

They are the fortunate ones. Bands, theatre, dance, and film all struggle to find time to prepare, create sets, and perform. The average live theatre event in Lafayette County runs a weekend. All the work to rehearse, build sets, and then practice crammed into a few days because the next theatre company, band or dance troupe needs the space. The Powerhouse Community Arts Center was created for this need but the volume of need outweighs the load placed on the stage. Local venues such as Lyric, Proud Larry’s, Blind Pig and Shelter on Van Buren provide space to host a variety of events but do not have the ability to offer rehearsal time.

Local churches, the public library, and spaces on campus offer relief but these spaces are also in demand to support their service to the community. Lafayette County is in a fortunate position. The confluence of a university, business owners and residents who value art and culture, and city leaders who recognize the economic value of an arts community has fostered this bountiful harvest. The question becomes how to maintain when there is a bottleneck on resources.

How can we present the creative works that germinate in every space? There have been creative solutions by the artist and spaces as groups begin to organize events around themes. Last year Sarahfest provided a format that connected various art performances around a theme allowing artists to collaborate both in work and in cross promoting programs. Art-er Limits, Mississippi’s only Fringe Festival, was created to provide access to performance spaces for a variety of different performing artist. The Fringe festival created guidelines allowing artist to create works that fit the spaces available instead of finding spaces to fit works.

While these innovative ideas solve the problem in the short term with the distinct trade off of creating unique programming for the community bigger solutions will eventually be necessary to maintain this creative energy. These solutions can be simple. The Arts Council’s long range plan for the Powerhouse includes creative space such as rehearsal studios and art studios while commercial spaces like The Edison offer flexible spaces for a variety of endeavors.

In larger cities, work and creative space such as WeSpace, exist mixing office services for creating related businesses during the day while providing art and cultural space in the evening. Hopefully we can find partnerships that capitalize on the resources of our community.

WAYNE ANDREWS is executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and can be reached at yacdirector@gmail.com.