Art Smart | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Art Smart

So long as Frank Melton isn't accosting you with a firearm in a church when you're just innocently trying to discuss the state of the arts in Jackson with the Arts Council, it's a great time to be an art lover in Jackson. The past couple of weeks had so much going on that even we couldn't keep on top of it, but here's a quick rehash in case you missed out.

Total proceeds from the Grace House Art Show at Lott-Stanton Gallery on July 13 have yet to be calculated, but the good news is that, according to director Troy Mangum, all but four pieces were sold that night.

"It was very well-attended; we were very pleased," Mangum added, giving an estimate of 250 people in attendance during the readings by Grace House residents. Tony DiFatta's painting of Grace House will be up for grabs soon on eBay, so check it out. We can also look forward to more Grace House arts events: Mangum says the journaling and art classes are ongoing, so there will be more to show off soon.

The H.C. Porter Gallery in Vicksburg also held their grand opening with a new exhibit called "Backyards and Beyond: Mississippians and Their Stories" July 14. An estimated 800 to 1,000 people packed into the first and second floors of the gallery, according to Karole Sessums.

"It was incredible; we're still trying to recover," Sessums said. "We had blues music playing on the street, and people were dancing on the streets of Vicksburg."

The exhibit will soon begin a national tour with the nonprofit group the gallery has started called Backyards and Beyond Inc.

Onstage, the JFP's own games columnist Nick Judin wrapped up New Stage Theatre's summer acting camp as Mayor Shinn in "The Music Man Jr." last weekend.

"I've done the camp three times," Judin said. "The first two years I did it, it was really different. … We put on a much smaller play, so it really was more of a summer camp than a serious seven-hour day, four-week workshop," like this year.

"Luckily we got a lot of talented people," he said. "It went over great—everybody I talked to liked it. We had a full house every night."

Missed out on these great events? Don't let it happen again: There's a lot going on in the arts this week, too. If you've ever thought about following in Nick's footsteps and being in a play yourself, you've got some great opportunities coming up. The Center Players, Black Rose Theatre and J. Lee Productions are all holding auditions (for "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Once Upon a Mattress" and "Dangerously in Love," respectively), and the Actor's Playhouse is holding an audition workshop for youth and parents. Check out the Lounge List and 8 Days for more details.

If you're not into being onstage, maybe you'd rather relax with some jazz. WJSU is hosting a great event with the Battle of the Saxes. Canton saxophonist Jessie Primer III joins Andre Delano and Reggie Hines Friday at JSU's McCoy Auditorium for a night of smooth saxophone jazz. Call 601-979-8672 for more information. For even more jazz, the Mississippi Museum of Art's monthly Jazz, Art and Friends event is this Thursday night.

For the visual arts, the Tougaloo Art Colony is probably still going on as you read this. Old South Brick and Supply Co. helped build kilns for the event, and the Mississippi Arts Commission provided a grant to help make it possible.

Director Johnnie Mae Gilbert tells me the weeklong event "is going absolutely fabulous." More than 65 people are participating in and facilitating the workshops, and Gilbert said the pastels students in Mario Robertson's class are so enthusiastic that "It's hard to pull them away to even eat." If you haven't participated in the workshops and learned how to make paper, woodcarvings and ceramics, head up to campus on Saturday morning for the Open House Festival.

"The public is invited to come into the individual studios to see what the artists produced over the week," Gilbert says. A new singing group will perform as part of the festival, and a hot art exhibit will be up through Saturday.

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