Demopolis receives AT&T grant

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Demopolis will be among nine West Alabama and East Mississippi communities demonstrating how The Arts can boost their economies and early childhood learning through a grant announced by the AT&T Foundation last Friday.

The AT&T Foundation issued a $10,000 grant to The Montgomery Institute to implement a program entitled Educating Artists and Entrepreneurs to Build Creative Economies in Rural Areas.

The nine communities participating in Phase One of the project are and Demopolis, Livingston, Thomasville, and Silas in Alabama and Philadelphia, Quitman, Bay Springs, Shuqualak and Meridian in Mississippi. The Institute will provide matching funds for the grant.

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“We will be reaching out to a wide array of artists – artisans, writers, musicians, cultural artists, graphic artists, performers, and more – plus the industries and organizations that support them,” said project director Richelle Putnam. “We will also be reaching out to Boys and Girls Clubs, Head Start Centers, and other early childhood centers that serve low and moderate income children.”

Speaking for the Mississippi Mayors, Philadelphia Mayor James Young said, “I want to say thank you to The Montgomery Institute and the AT&T Foundation for Looking into the future. If we can teach our young people that the arts and the music and what it creates in our rural areas, it’s going to be a benefit to us. A lot of our gifted artists from our small towns move to bigger cities because there’s no venue. So I hope that this grant will help build that interest and build that stability in this area.”

Shown at the grant announcement are, from left, Philadelphia Mayor James Young, TMI Project Director Richelle Putnam, Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson, Kirk Thompson representing Mayor Cheri Barry, AT&T Representative C.D. Smith, and Allison Winstead with the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Speaking for the Alabama Mayors, Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson said, “I want also want to thank The Montgomery Institute for this opportunity. I think Mayor Young was right on with his comments in the fact that in a rural community this will be of great value. These types of programs and industries in a rural community are crucial in terms or developing and moving forward. They help give young people a sense of achievement and self worth. Of course, everybody looks for a big smoke stack industry but this is an industry unto itself that can provide a lot of things to a lot of people.”

“We look forward to working with The Montgomery Institute as it goes forth and starts to work with communities about the power of the creative economy and what it looks like,” said Allison Winstead, community development program director for the Mississippi Arts Commission. “The beauty of creative economy is that rural communities, communities of any size, can benefit.”

Key partners assisting in this project are the West Alabama – East Mississippi Mayors Network, area legislators, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Auburn University’s Urban Studio, the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, and the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development.

Key components of the grant program include providing community-based workshops to educate artists on how to start and operate small businesses and market their services, with a special emphasis on women, minorities and youth; educate entrepreneurs on how to utilize artists to grow and expand their businesses; and educate community leaders on how artists can create jobs and become economic engines; and providing roster artist education to children in early childhood development programs with an emphasis on programs that primarily serve low and moderate income children.

The Montgomery Institute is a regional non-profit organization based in Meridian, Miss., with a mission to up build people and places in East Mississippi and West Alabama.