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YAC receives federal grant

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council can boast a new first: for the first time since the Powerhouse opened, the group has received a federal grant.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is awarding more than $82 million to more than 1,000 projects across the country in honor of its 50th anniversary year, and YAC is one of three Mississippi entities receiving funds.

YAC Executive Director Wayne Andrews said the nonprofit will receive $24,000 to support a series of training workshops, mentorships and arts incubator opportunities for artists that helps lead them to self-sufficiency in their craft and businesses.

The arts council launched the Arts Incubator in 2009 as a way for artists in the area to gain small business skills. The free workshops became a quarterly series in 2014 and have included partners such as the University of Mississippi Small Business Development Center and the local chamber of commerce.

“Our incubator program works with artists to help them turn their talents into a business,” Andrews said. “Meghan Gallagher, our VISTA, who has managed and developed the program, designed the workshops and events to help self-taught, folk and fine artists. The results are more small businesses based in Oxford. We now have artists who are looking at how they can create online stores, teach lessons online and expand their audience. If we can retain our creative class and be recognized as the home for artists, we will build on our reputation as an arts community.”

Andrews said the grant will help expand workshops and enable YAC to offer the resource center for people to come get help.

“We also hope to connect artist with opportunities around the Southeast so that we begin to export Mississippi’s greatest resource — our art and culture,” he said.

Andrews said several individuals played a big role in receiving the grant: Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson, Lynn Wilkins and Sen. Trent Kelly. It’s that support in a small community that makes a difference, the NEA believes.

“Approximately 85 percent of NEA grantees are small- to medium-sized organizations serving millions of people each year,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The arts are all around us and the NEA helps them thrive.”

Also receiving a grant was the city of Natchez, which is receiving $50,000 to support creation and implementation of a public art and public health initiative called Blueprint for Cultural Health. The Mississippi Arts Commission in Jackson will receive $810,400 for partnership agreement activities throughout the state.