A city as vast and diverse as Jackson contains people of varying cultural identities who unify to form a grander community. The sheer number of nonprofit entities, locally owned businesses, annual festivities and other attractions that welcome Jackson Metro residents and visitors exemplifies the levels of support Jacksonians are willing to demonstrate for art, history, good causes and beyond.
New Stage Theatre boasts one of the longest-running winning streaks in Best of Jackson history, claiming victory for live theater in over half of the award ceremony's 20 years. Each season, the company produces five main-stage plays, a SchoolFest matinee, a kids-only theater camp and a holiday show. New Stage's production of "A Christmas Carol" resonated with enough ticket-holders to earn the title of Best Stage Play for 2022. Upcoming productions include "I Just Stopped by to See the Man," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," and "9 to 5: The Musical."
Several organizations in the Jackson Metro devote themselves to visual arts. For example, The Mustard Seed, a nonprofit that provides for the needs of adults with developmental disabilities, sells artwork they make with their own hands to raise funds and continue its mission. Fondren Art Gallery, meanwhile, showcases works from local, regional and international artists. The owner, Richard McKey, contributes his own pieces, which you can view in-person or on the gallery's website.
In addition to its multiple ongoing exhibits, the Mississippi Museum of Art hosts a rotating roster of visiting exhibitions for attendees to browse. From April to September of this year, the art museum will house and display "A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration," unveiling newly commissioned works across media from a dozen acclaimed Black artists: Mark Bradford, Akea Brionne, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates, Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Carrie Mae Weems.
Other museums have also proven themselves as fan-favorites among Jacksonians. The Two Mississippi Museums—the entity that comprises both the Mississippi Museum of History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum—won this year's Best Tourist Attraction award. The Mississippi Children's Museum won Best Museum and Mississippi Museum of Natural Science won Best Community Garden/Nature Attraction. Between these two latter museums stands the LeFleur's Bluff Playground, which opened in late 2021. Despite its late introduction, readers voted the playground "Best New Addition to Jackson" for 2022.
The zeal with which those of the metro make our voices heard helps define our Jacksonian hearts. Young, Gifted and Black takes home Best Public Forum/Speaker Series, and the Jackson Foodies™ grabbed the inaugural Best Local (Jackson-Focused) Social Media Group category. The Facebook group contains over 25,000 members who post pictures and reviews of their latest meals, ask for recommendations, announce the openings of new restaurants, and otherwise broadcast their appreciation for Jackson's range of represented cuisines. Elvie's, a restaurant Chef Hunter Evans opened in early 2020, earned Best Locally Owned Business this year.
While the pandemic has complicated gatherings over the last two years, people in Jackson continue to support the fundraising efforts of local non-profits. The Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Association, for example, has presented its annual fall street festival, Bright Lights Belhaven Nights, for nearly as long as the Jackson Free Press has been in business. The Junior League of Jackson organizes two regular events that scored Best of Jackson victories this year: Touch A Truck® Jackson and Mistletoe Marketplace.
Browse the complete list of winners and finalists for our Community & Culture category below.
Best Annual Event: Mistletoe Marketplace
Finalists: Capital City Pride / Hal's St. Paddy's Parade & Festival / Jackson Indie Music Week / Mississippi Book Festival / Mississippi Comic Con
Best Art Gallery: Fondren Art Gallery
Finalists: AND Gallery / Brown's Fine Art & Framing / Fischer Galleries
Best Arts Organization: Mississippi Museum of Art
Finalists: Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi / Greater Jackson Arts Council / Mississippi Arts Commission / Mississippi Department of Archives and History / New Stage Theatre
Best Community Garden/Nature Attraction: Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Finalists: The Art Garden - Mississippi Museum of Art / Clinton Community Nature Center / Eudora Welty House & Garden / LeFleur's Bluff State Park / Natchez Trace Parkway
Best Festival: Bright Lights Belhaven Nights
Finalists: Farish Street Heritage Festival / Jackson Indie Music Week / Mississippi Anime Festival / Mississippi Book Festival / Mississippi Science Fest / WellsFest
Best Kids’ Event: Touch A Truck® Jackson (Junior League of Jackson)
Finalists: JA Fall Carnival (Jackson Academy) / Journey to the North Pole (Mississippi Children's Museum) / Park After Dark (MMNS and MCM) / Pumpkin Adventure (Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum) / Pumpkin Patch (McClain Resort) / Trick or Treat at the Two Mississippi Museums
Best Live Theater/Theatrical Group (Virtual or In-Person): New Stage Theatre
Finalists: Black Rose Theatre Company / Enchanting Memories Entertainment / Fondren Theatre Workshop / Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center / MADDRAMA / Uproar Theatre Company, Inc.
Best Local (Jackson-Focused) Social Media Group: Jackson Foodies
Finalists: Amazoning with Anitra / Black With No Chaser / Key to the City Media / Visit Jackson – MyJXN
Best Locally Owned Business: Elvie’s
Finalists: The Highland Vet / Mangia Bene Restaurant Management Group / Nick Wallace Culinary / OffBeat / Paige Barber Supply / Urban Foxes
Best Museum: Mississippi Children’s Museum
Finalists: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum / Mississippi Museum of Art / Museum of Mississippi History / Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Best New Addition to Jackson: LeFleur's Bluff Playground
Finalists: Capital City Pride / Ecoshed JXN / Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association / Museum Trail
Best Nonprofit Organization: The Mustard Seed
Finalists: 5th Squad / Capital City Pride / The Good Samaritan Center / Junior League of Jackson / Mississippi Blood Services / Mississippi Children's Museum / Shower Power
Best Public Forum/Speaker Series: Young Gifted and Black
Finalists: History is Lunch (MDAH) / Key to the City Podcast / Lunch Break Podcast with Edward Moak and Christina Spann / Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series (Millsaps College)
Best Stage Play (Virtual or In-Person): "A Christmas Carol" (New Stage Theatre)
Finalists: "Cinderella" (Jackson Academy) / "Little Shop of Horrors" (New Stage Theatre) / "Shrek the Musical" (New Stage Theatre) / "The Sixth Stage of Grief" (Uproar Theatre Company, Inc.)
Best Tourist Attraction: Two Mississippi Museums (Mississippi Museum of History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum)
Finalists: Fondren / Mississippi Children's Museum / Mississippi Museum of Natural Science / Mississippi State Fair / Safari Park (McClain Resort)
For a full list of winners and finalists for all sections, visit 2022.bestofjackson.com.