Mississippi artists make year end challenge

Published 6:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2022

By Wayne Andrews

Ten percent of annual charitable giving occurs in the last three days of the year. It could be the spirit of the season, tax
deadlines, or a donation made in honor of someone. Two Mississippi artists made an anonymous donation in the hopes of
inspiring donations to support places for the Arts in Mississippi.

Now, through the end of the year two Mississippi artists are matching gifts made to the Raise the Roof Fund. A project of the
Mississippi Presenters Network.

Email newsletter signup

During the past year, a collective of arts organizations across the State held a series of meetings. This included arts
organizations in Starkville, Tupelo, Cleveland, Oxford, Greenville and Hancock County. The goal of the meetings was to discuss
how working together small community organizations could strengthen their individual organization’s ability to serve their
communities – and make the arts more accessible across Mississippi.

The network of arts leaders recognized that their ability to grow and support their local community was dependent on strong arts
organizations across Mississippi. The Arts drive tourism supporting local communities by highlighting local artists, culture and
places. The Arts organization defined a collective goal: creating a fund to support art spaces in Mississippi.

There are annual grants by private foundations, the State Arts Commission, and even regional arts organizations to bring artists
and support performances. Yet, there is no fund for art spaces. On the community level it is hard to balance raising funds for a
long term project like a building or equipment when the community is looking to the impact the next festival or event will provide.

This state-wide collection of arts groups recognized that creating a foundation would offer long-term support. A thriving theatre
in Starkville could be the model for one in Fulton. A Community Art Center in Oxford could provide the model for Clarksdale. A
fund that annually provided grants to support art spaces would encourage communities to invest in the arts.

A goal of finding 500 donors to give $100 in a state-wide fundraising effort was set by this collection of community arts
organizations under Raise the Roof! Campaign. These 500 donations would be enough to establish an annual fund through a
local community foundation that would invest the funds with the income providing annual grants to art spaces in large and small
communities in Mississippi.

The idea of creating opportunities for communities of all sizes to have access to funds to define an art space interested two
Mississippi artists. They paid the offices of the Mississippi Presenters Network a surprise visit offering to match donations made
to the campaign by Dec 31, 2022.

Zoe Fitch, coordinator of Raise the Roof! Project expressed “This challenge makes it possible not only for us to reach our goal
quicker – it also means if we do secure 500 donations of $100 we could double our goal.” Fitch bases her optimism on the last
three days of giving and that 77 percent of Americans believe their donations to charity can make a difference. In this case –
their donation can make twice the impact.

Donations dated by Dec 31, can be mailed to Raise the Roof c/o MSPN at P.O Box Oxford, MS 38655 or donations can be
made online at presentmissisippi.org.

Wayne Andrews is director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.