December is always an interesting month at the Jackson Free Press. Right after Thanksgiving, we promote local shopping with our Small Business Saturday focus and our local gift guides throughout the month of December; it's also right now that the Best of Jackson finalists ballot is live for readers to give their opinion on the best local, unique people and places that Metro Jackson has to offer. (Visit bestofjackson.com to vote right now!)
Along with the Shop Local and Best of Jackson initiatives, we also have our Winter Arts Preview—the issue you're reading now. Here, we're able to look ahead at a few months worth of events while celebrating all of the artistic and cultural amenities that Jackson has to offer its residents. And there's a lot to go around, as you'll see in this issue.
Around 10 years ago, I attended a conference in Little Rock, Ark., which included a Saturday trip to its art museum, the Arkansas Arts Center. At the time, we still housed the Mississippi Museum of Art in its old building on Pascagoula Street; I remember being in that impressive building in Arkansas, watching the bustling cafe service and the patrons milling around the exhibits and gift store, and thinking, "Wow. We can use something like this in Jackson."
Fast forward to today—we have exactly that amazing resource at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Great food, evening events (with beer!), fabulous exhibits and—since I started with a "shop local" theme—a fantastic Museum Store filled with artsy gifts for adults and educational items for kids. (When I was growing up, my Aunt Oneida was the one who gave the quirky, creative, education gifts to her nephews, who were, of course, more obsessed with video games, sports equipment and "Star Wars" characters. Now, as an adult, I fully appreciate the opportunity to shop at the Museum Store and channel my inner Aunt Oneida.)
Speaking of my childhood, it's fantastic to see New Stage Theatre putting on a performance of the Jean Shepard classic "A Christmas Story," which was a staple of my youth, as well. (I still, to this day, say "fra-gee-lay" whenever I see "fragile" on the side of a shipping container ... or at least, I say it in my head.) Go see it at New Stage. Nothing goes with a chilly December evening like wrapping up in a warm coat and heading for the theater.
Other holiday options abound this time of year, from events at the Mississippi Children's Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, to local theater performances, church and synagogue services, and singing Christmas trees. (Belhaven University's, in their new football facility, looks to be one to check out this year.)
You'll find these events and others in the pages of this issue, so make sure you take a few looks through it. Drop it on your coffee table and refer to it over the next few the weeks and months ahead here in this issue. You've got a lot of options to consider.
With this edition of our quarterly arts and events preview, we also celebrate exciting progress that we've made to improve the JFP's online hub of event listings in Jackson—our new online calendar at JFPEvents.com. We've recently changed the software that is the foundation of the calendar, making it easier for local people and organizations to post their own events (and for us to curate them) along with making the presentation more attractive, informative and mobile-friendly.
On the event details page, you can easily tweet or share items on Facebook, access a map to the event venue and "favorite" events that you want to reference later. From the main page, you can pull up your list of favorites and invite friends though social media or email. (You can even change the radius or zip code on the calendar and see events in other parts of the country.)
The new JFPEvents.com has some online marketing features, as well. If you're throwing your own event that needs a little extra promotion, you can actually "boost" the event so that it appears at the top of every page for an affordable price, right there on the site where tons of people are specifically trying to figure out what events to attend. (Nice, right?)
We've already seen great traffic and response from the new online calendar and couldn't be more excited about it. Most importantly, it wouldn't be possible without our events listings editor, Tyler Edwards, who is doing a fantastic job since he began in the position a few months ago. You can reach him at [email protected] if you've got an event that he (and, hence, the world) needs to know about.
On the print front, Tyler and Music Editor Micah Smith pulled together the bulk of what you're seeing in this issue with help from Assistant Editor Amber Helsel (who also wrote the cover story) and great work, as always, from Staff Photographer Imani Khayyam. Considering they all just collaborated on the winter edition of BOOM Jackson magazine (also hitting streets in wide distribution this week), you know it's been a busy holiday season for them already.
In the meantime, if you're looking for other opportunities to "go local" this holiday season, I'll refer you back to the Best of Jackson ballot on pages 15 and 16. There you'll find a ton of local restaurants, gift shops, boutiques, art galleries and stores that defy simple categories. You'll see mention of the urban warriors, local business owners and others who deserve your support and a "vote with your dollars" this holiday season.
I know... Amazon. One-stop-parking-lot shopping. I get it. But I encourage you to Shop Local First this holiday season. Remember that those local dollars support local jobs, circulate more in the local economy, and help foster the uniqueness and quality of place that make Jackson worth calling "home." It's worth the effort!