Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Folk Arts Apprenticeship Site Visit

I decided to take the heat to another level this morning during a site visit to the blacksmith shop at the Mississippi Agricultural & Forrestry Museum. Master blacksmith Bill Pevey and his apprentice Butch Hand were wrapping up a few final lessons to complete the year-long MAC Folk Arts Apprenticeship program. The coal fire was blazing upon my arrival, and Butch was forging steel as Bill was laying out several of the tools that the two crafted during the apprenticeship. To see the full collection of their work from the apprenticeship, make sure to visit us here at the MAC offices on Thursday, August 4 from 2-4 p.m. for the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Gallery Reception. We'll have metal arts and quilts on display in the gallery. We'll also experience a peformance by the Irish dance apprenticeship, featuring master artist Catherine Sherer Bishop and apprentice Tavia Ethredge.

Butch and Bill at their stations in the blacksmith shop.

The nucleus: coal.

Butch heats the steel until it is hot enough to be shaped.

Butch begins the lengthening process by hammering the hot steel.

Bill steps in to supervise.

A few of the finished products from the Folk Arts Apprenticeship program include: hammers, knives, forks, spoons and various blacksmithing tools.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mississippi Cultural Crossroads

The 2011 Summer Interns from Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in Port Gibson visited the MAC offices on July 11 during a field trip to Jackson. The students came to learn more about the arts in state government, and to see the work of fellow Port Gibson resident, quilter Tammy McGrew. Pictured from Left to Right: Mississippi Cultural Crossroads Director Tara Wren, Brianna S. Wren, Jarrius Brandon, Jarvis Sims, Dabreona Monroe, Wally Curry and Tamara Bell. We wish these students the best of luck and a bright future in the arts as they enter the upcoming fall semester!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grassroots Blues Festival

The 9th Annual Grassroots Blues Festival in Duck Hill got started around noon this past Saturday, July 9. I traveled north on Highway 55 and took the Duck Hill exit, immediately sighing a breath of releif to be cruising up and down rural Highway 404through the lush, green hills of Montgomery County. Upon arrival, I met the most friendly folks. The people working the gates were happy to see me and knew I was coming to see all the good things taking place in their small community of 750 folks. The MAC's own Larry Morrisey was backing up bluesman Louis Arzo "Gearshifter" Youngblood on drums, where they wrapped the set with a soulful "Happy Birthday" for festival organizer Al White. Al is the director of Action Communication and Education Reform, an arts and social activism organization he spearheaded in the early 1990s. (Learn more about Al and his organization by downloading my Mississippi Arts Hour interview on podcast.)

Excellent music continued throughout the day, including a set from duo Alphonso Sanders and Bill "Howlin' Madd" Perry, both artists on the MAC's Artist Roster. I was especially excited to see that Bill's daughter has joined the band and was jiving on keys.

The unexpected favorite for me, however, was a group out of Baton Rouge: Leroy Conish and Band featuring Nicole Jackson. This group offered a smooth, soul blues sound and Nickee was on fire: This lady was built to perform. No two ways about it!

Last, but certainly not least, there was good food everywhere. Lots of the festival-goers brought their own grills, but vendors were there providing foodways for folks like me who left the grill at home. I bought a gallon zip-lock bag of freshly made pork skins and MAC PR director, Susan Dobbs, opted for the fried catfish plate.

In my opinion, the only way to beat the heat in Mississippi in July, is to lather on the blues and soak up the fried food!