It was during a summer art history class at Ole Miss that Allison England fell in love with Mississippi arts. Now, England, 27, is their resolute champion at the Mississippi Museum of Art, where she has worked for the past two years.
"It was really a serendipitous thing," she says, sitting in the art museum's Palette Cafe. "I never planned to work for the museum; it just happened."
England joined the museum's volunteer team, and shortly after, a part-time job as an accounting assistant became available. Now a full-time employee, England is the membership secretary, charged with getting more people connected with the museum.
This Mississippi art advocate grew up in Starkville and visited the capital regularly.
"Once a month, my family came down to Jackson to visit family, and I always visited the zoo," she says with a smile. To this day, visiting the Jackson Zoo is still one of her favorite things to do. "The tapirs are my favorite animal," she says, giggling. "They kind of just hang out in the mud."
Since moving to Jackson, England realized there is so much more to it than a great zoo. "When I was younger, downtown was never a place that we came, but now living in Jackson and living in Fondren, there is so much more than I ever realized. And there is always something happening in Jackson," she says.
England cites the Mississippi Museum of Art as an example. It hosts a multitude of programs like "Music in the City"--the Oct. 9 program is a recital featuring mezzo soprano Viola Dacus--and "Unburied Treasures" featuring art by Mississippian William Hollingsworth Oct. 16.
Her hope is that more people will start coming to these culturally enlightening events. "There is nothing better than a community that has a personal relationship with its arts," she says with assurance. "Especially a place like Mississippi. Everybody should be able to experience that."
The museum already has an established older membership, but England believes it is important to have youthful participation as well. She is currently revamping the membership program to appeal to both older and younger generations. While she could not give any details, she thinks the changes will be instrumental in bringing in the college crowd.
England hopes to stay at the museum and broaden her role there. She wants everyone to experience the power of Mississippi art.
This southern girl loves her state and its people. "The people around me inspire me," she says. "This is a great community, and I would love to be here forever."