Photo by Sage Carter-Hooey
Relaxed in her office chair at the Mustard Seed, a smiling Kit Barksdale points to a unique painting created by a Mustard Seed artist, also known as a "Seedster." Numerous identical faces peer out from the painting, but one distinctive face at the bottom of the painting wears sunglasses.
"Isn't it wonderful?" Barksdale asks, laughing. "It's kind of a long story, but to make it short, basically I love it because everybody but the painter looks exactly alike. And then the painter, of course, is very cool. I think that's the way we all are."
Barksdale is the executive director of the Mustard Seed, a center for developmentally challenged adults in Jackson. She says her job is an "honor."
"One time somebody asked me how I like my job, and I said, 'You know, my day starts off, and three or four people come and tell me they love me.' It's such an honor to serve the people at Mustard Seed," Barksdale says.
Barksdale describes her life as "a long journey of different things." Her packed resume includes everything from coordinating participants for the International Ballet Competition in Jackson to substitute teaching. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1967 with a bachelor of arts in education, becoming an arts specialist. Then In 1973, she helped found the Craftmen's Guild of Mississippi and created art from her personal studio in Jackson. In 1993, she became the chief of promotions and marketing in the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Barksdale hadn't been at the Department of Wildlife long when the Craftsmen's Guild asked her to be its executive director in 1995.
Soon after, however, Barksdale was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996.
"It just kind of came from nowhere," Barksdale says. "It was a big surprise, as much to everybody else as to me. I would not have known if I hadn't had a mammogram."
Barksdale's struggle with cancer was luckily short-lived; by 1998, her doctor declared her cancer was gone. "I really don't think that much about having cancer. I did; it's done. It's been 12 years," Barksdale says.
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her plans to build a studio on the Coast, Barksdale made plans to leave the Craftsmen's Guild and look for work elsewhere. But when it came down to it, she discovered the executive director opening at Mustard Seed in 2006right here in Jackson.
"I looked a number of different places, but when it came down to it I just couldn't leave Jackson. I had lived here all my life," Barksdale says. "Sometimes you just don't know how strong your roots are.