Best Face Forward

Beauty 2015 SupplementMississippi Magazine
BEAUTY Supplement
Spring 2015

During the height of mid-winter, when the weather outside is truly at its most frightful, our natural instinct is to bundle up, cover up, and hibernate until spring once again comes gently knocking at our door. However, when the time comes to emerge from hiding, our skin doesn’t look quite as lovely as the flowers blooming in the garden.

There are numerous options available to prepare yourself for spring. After battling chapped, dry skin all winter long, a facial might be just the ticket to greet spring head on. Facials have come a long way from a mud mask and a couple cucumber slices. New treatments are being created everyday that can now clarify, remove toxins, smooth fine lines, improve texture – the list goes on. With all the options available, what are some of the most effective treatments?

Hollywood has pushed both oxygen facials and HydraFacials™ to the forefront of today’s beauty buzz. If you have never had one, or contemplating getting one, you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Unlike a normal facial, which is geared towards providing a relaxing experience in addition to cleansing the skin, these cosmetic facials are performed to achieve a specific goal utilizing products that provide a much more dramatic result than a normal facial.

If fine lines and wrinkles are your main concern, it may be worth giving an oxygen facial a try. True its name, oxygen facials use a stream of pure pressurized oxygen to push nutrients deep into the skin.

“We use oxygen in a different way, but oxygen is actually not the star of the show. It’s hyaluronic acid,” explains Deirdre Burke, director of sales at Intraceuticals, the company that that first introduced the technique and continues to lead in the oxygen facial market. “Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant that occurs naturally within the body. As we age, stress, pollution, and lifestyle factors deplete the amount of hyaluronic acid in our body. We apply different weights of hyaluronic acid directly onto the skin. The oxygen is used as a method of application. Once applied, it’s like a huge drink of water for the skin.”

The facial is completely customizable to provide each person with the most effective treatment. An aesthetician will start by asking a series of questions in order to evaluate the skin. Once the problem areas and objectives are determined, the skin is then cleaned and prepped. The aesthetician uses a small wand called an airbrush to deliver bursts of pressurized oxygen onto the skin. One can also elect to have a customized combination of serums containing anti-aging ingredients, vitamins, and moisturizers applied. The bursts of oxygen help push the serums into the skin at a deeper level than simply applying them topically.

How is this beneficial? First, many ingredients found in over-the-counter anti-aging creams contain molecules too large to effectively penetrate the skin and create a dramatic difference. The serums apply these exact same ingredients at a lower molecular weight. When combined with increased pressure, they are better able to penetrate the skin and increase their effectiveness.

During the procedure, which can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, most people describe the sensation similar to a mini pressure washer applying cool air to the face. The results have been compared to that of Botox, only not as dramatic — smoother, more supple skin and an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles.

“People notice the results immediately,” adds Burke. “They notice a minimization in fine lines and wrinkles, a freshness around the eye area, lips look more plump, facial contours are enhanced. It provides the best version of yourself.”

HydraFacials™ are targeted towards individuals that desire a deep cleansing. The procedure uses a combination of microdermabrasion, chemical peel, automated extractions, and a final application of antioxidants to resurface and renew the skin. The entire procedure is conducted using the 4-in-1 Vortex Technology™ tool.

“We are a multi-benefit treatment,” says Ellen Markus, director of marketing for Edge Systems LLC, the developer of the HydraFacial™. “That’s what sets us apart from other facials on the market. The vortex tool provides greater control during application, which allows you to achieve the maximum benefit.”

The HydraFacial™ procedure is effective on most skin types, including ethnic, dry, or oily. First, skin is prepped by cleansing and exfoliating to open the pores. A light chemical peel is then applied to loosen impurities. Once the peel is removed, the vortex suction tool – which acts just like a mini vacuum for the face – extracts dead skin and bacteria from the pores. Finally, antioxidants are applied via the vortex infusion tool.

Says Markus, “The gentle suction during the extraction process opens pores, allowing the skin to be more receptive when the serum is applied during the last step. The serum contains a mixture of antioxidents, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.”

As with oxygen facials, HydraFacials™ offer a wide variety of serums that can be combined to provide a completely customized facial experience. Depending on the skin type and needs of the patient, HydraFacials™ can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, clear congested pores, treat hyper-pigmentation, promote cell renewal, and treat acne-prone skin. Some people with sensitive skin may experience mild discomfort during the chemical peel application, but typically the entire procedure is relatively pain free. Results usually last 5-7 days.

“We don’t just focus on short-term aesthetics. We really strive to restore skin to a healthy state, which is key to long-term skin health. Once your skin is healthy, you will find that you don’t need as much maintenance down the road when you get older.”

Most aestheticians recommend either of these treatments monthly to receive the maximum benefit and see sustained results. However, if monthly facials aren’t in your budget, they are a great option when prepping for a special occasion.

It’s time to break free from the winter doldrums and embrace spring head on. By treating yourself to one of these cutting-edge facials, your outward appearance is sure to match the season.

Houses Change; Memories Never Fade

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Mississippi Magazine
Home & Garden Insert
March/April 2015

While growing up in Jackson, James Blackwood always admired the stately houses in Eastover. His goal was to one day call one of these residences home.

“The neighborhood was my first priority,” Blackwood explains. “With all the old trees and the history of the houses, it’s the most beautiful neighborhood. Second priority was finding a house with good bones.”

Finding his dream home wasn’t easy. In fact, it took almost two years before an opportunity arose. Westerfield’s realtor, Shari Lackey called him one day and instructed him to meet her on Lake Circle Drive immediately. A home had just been listed and they would have to act fast.

Blackwood immediately fell in love with the floor plan and large rooms within 3,200 square foot ranch-style home, which was constructed in 1959. An avid gardener, he was also able to see potential in the home’s backyard and surrounding property.

Upon acquiring the home, Blackwood planned a series of renovations to turn the mid-century house into his own. However, at closing, the adult children of the former homeowners, Mr. B. E. “Corky” Grantham, Jr., and his wife Sarah, made a special request. The Grantham children shared many fond memories of growing up in the house on Lake Circle Drive. Their daughter Sally requested to tour the home once renovations were complete.

“This [request] really touched me in a special way,” Blackwood reveals.  “Having spent my entire childhood in the house my parents built and still live in, I often wonder what will become of that house one day.  With all the memories of my childhood, I want that special house to always exist. This inspired me to create a remodeled house that will stand the test of time, with hopes that my childhood home will one day be updated as well for another generation to create their own memories.”

The house has approximately 12 rooms, including a formal living and dining room immediately off the foyer, in addition to a den that leads into the kitchen. Blackwood enlisted the help of Kim Inzinna to coordinate the design elements of the project. Turns out, Inzinna already had a connection to the home. As a young designer, Inzinna was the was the protege of designer Jim Westerfield, who oversaw the house’s partial renovation in the 1970’s.

The home already featured several classic Westerfield details, such as signature molding, eye-catching wallpaper, and black and white marble flooring in the foyer. It was these details that Blackwood and Inzinna decided to incorporate into the overall design. Drawing on her experiences while working with Westerfield, Inzinna was able to create a plan that complemented his updates while creating a fresh and modern feel.

Blackwood selected Mack Chunn of Structural Solutions to oversee construction. The team immediately began working on the layout of the sitting room and kitchen. Because the kitchen had been given a facelift recently, no major changes were planned other than removing the wall that divided the kitchen from the sitting room and replacing it with a bar area, creating an open floor plan perfect for entertaining guests. A half bathroom and laundry room was also added.

Inzinna opted to open up the den by removing the original slanted ceiling and replacing it with an arched pickle-pine barrel roll ceiling. The painted cypress paneling was removed while the original brick floors were replaced with rustic, antique heart-of-pine floors.

One of the focal points of the room was the large brick fireplace and hearth. This was also given a facelift by adding stacked black granite stones over the existing brick, which coordinates with the black granite countertop used in the bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows were added, in addition to raising all the door casings, to let in additional light and create more height.

Elizabeth Gullett, interior designer for Summer House, was recruited to provide the decorative touches needed to complete the newly renovated den. Because Blackwood enjoys entertaining, it needed to have ample seating for guests. However, the large scale of the space also made functionality a challenge. Gullett solved this dilemma by dividing the room into sections and creating multiple seating areas.

In the center of the room, four deep, white armchairs are centered around a large white leather ottoman. A brindle cowhide rug layered over a large sisal and wool area rug sets the space apart while providing dimension and texture.

“Doing a group of four chairs in a room rather than a sofa is unexpected,” explains Gullett. “However, it allows guests to move around the room more freely.”

The armchairs are accented with kelly green velvet pillows, which tie into  two tufted, olive green, benches situated along the far wall of the den. A pair of striking, 40 x 60” black and white paintings done in the style of Franz Kline, combined with oversized wall sconces, brings the large wall down to scale. The most interesting element of the room is the carved wood and marble table created by New Orleans-based designer Tara Shaw. The table, which took almost a year to procure, combines both Baroque and French elements.

Finally, the huge oversized chandelier that hangs from the arched ceiling adds drama to the design and complements the gold in the wall sconces and the Tara Shaw table.

Once the den was complete, Blackwood still had two large rooms – the formal living room and dining room – to tackle. These are the first rooms a visitor sees upon entering the house, so they both had to have a major wow factor. Blackwood decided to incorporate a French-Old World theme into the design and approached designer Matt Nicholas to create the look Blackwell hoped to achieve.

The final phase of the renovation was updating the exterior. The entire house was repainted and the original red brick steps were overlaid with Pennsylvania Blue Stone. However, Blackwell’s most important project was installing a courtyard and open-air shower.

Blackwell dreamed of having an open-air shower after vacationing in both Cabo and Lake Michigan. Landscape architect Rick Griffin was consulted on the design, while contractor Monty Montgomery and Wright Plumbing headed up implementation and construction. Other outdoor elements include the addition of a deck and parterre garden.

During the nine-month renovation process, Blackwood never forgot the request made by the Grantham’s daughter Sally. During the renovation process, Sally was invited to tour the home she grew up in.

“It was one of the special moments during the renovation,” Blackwood adds. “I was so pleased to see her reactions to the updates that were being made. Once, while in the attic, I found an old invitation inviting Sally to an after-prom breakfast. I think the time frame was the mid-1970’s. As a reminder of the history in the house, I placed the invitation on the bedside table in the room that was once Sally’ childhood bedroom.”

Pastry Queens

Ms MAg Jan 2015Mississippi Magazine
January /February 2015

The sun won’t be up for at least another three or four hours when Alejandra Sprouts arrives for work. The head pastry chef and co-proprietor at the newly-opened La Brioche patisserie in Jackson unlocks the doors to her 1200 square foot kitchen in basement of Fondren Corners around 3:30 a.m. By the time the horizon turns pink from the first hints of a sunrise, Sprouts is pulling her first round of breakfast pastries from a stainless steel commercial oven. The pastries quickly make their way upstairs to the bakery storefront, where a few early bird customers are waiting to get their worm – or in this case, a freshly baked, from-scratch croissant still warm from the oven. It’s an experience that, until recently, most Jacksonians never had the opportunity to experience.

La Brioche is the brainchild of Sprouts and her sister Cristina Lazzari. Originally from Argentina, the girls arrived in the United States as preteens, but have since traveled and lived all over the world. They came to Mississippi to help their parents establish a farm that would later become the first certified organic farm in the state.

In 2010, a tornado destroyed the farm’s greenhouse. What might seem like a devastating event to most became the opportunity Sprouts needed to pursue a different dream. She decided to attend L’Art de la Patisserie program at the French Pastry School in Chicago, Ill. There she learned the fine art of making pastries under the direction of renowned chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F.

“The minute I stepped into the school, I said to myself, ‘Yes, this is what I want to be doing,’” recalls Sprouts.

Sprouts completed a six months internship at the school and gained experience through jobs at various hotels, restaurants and bakeries in Chicago.

“It was extremely hard, but I worked with some amazing chefs and the lessons I learned were invaluable,” she adds.

Sprouts left the Windy City in 2013 to rejoin her sister in Mississippi with the hopes of launching a new business venture.

“I like coffee and Alejandra has always liked sugar and pastries,” Larazzi explains. “We knew if we ever went into business together, it needed to be something focused around that.”

The sisters started with a 900 square foot commercial kitchen space on Highway 80 in Jackson. They sold their confections at the Mississippi Farmer’s Market on High Street, eventually landing a few commercial accounts including Sneaky Beans coffee and Whole Foods.

Adds Larazzi, “The business grew much faster than we expected. We always sold out at the farmer’s market and people were constantly asking us where our store was.”

The sisters looked at several storefronts around the Jackson area before fellow Fondren business owner Ron Chane convinced them to visit an empty retail space in Fondren Corners.

Says Sprouts, “He told us ‘I have the perfect place for you.’ When we saw this location, we knew that Fondren was the right place to start.”

“This is a great business community. You feel very welcome and a lot of people in this area support local business,” Larazzi adds.

When it came to the storefront design, Larazzi and Sprouts wanted customers to feel like they just stepped off the streets of Jackson and into a Parisian café.

“In Sweden and Italy, they have places where you go and sit down and enjoy coffee and a pastry,” Larazzi says. “I missed that kind of ambiance and we wanted to introduce it to Jackson and give everyone an opportunity to have access to something like this and be able to appreciate it.”

La Brioche officially opened its doors in October 2014 to overwhelming support. In fact, for the first month they sold out every single day. The sisters have done some tweaking to their business hours and Sprouts has since hired two additional chefs to help her keep up with the demand. However, Sprouts does still recommend that customers come early.

In addition to freshly baked croissants, bagels, Danish pastries, and brioche buns, La Brioche’s menu includes a variety of items not commonly found anywhere else in Mississippi. Patrons can also enjoy gourmet cookies from all over the world such as Argentinean alfajores and German linzer cookies, brightly colored French macarons, bite-sized cheesecakes and tartes, and a wide assortment of homemade gelatos. Everything served in the bakery is either made from scratch or sourced locally. All the breakfast pastries take at least two days to prepare and are made the morning they are sold.

“You cannot have a day-old croissant,” she points out.

The bakery also sells freshly baked bread from Gil’s Bread in Ridgeland, milk from T&R Dairy in Libery, Miss., and coffee from North Shore Specialty Coffees in Brandon. All of the bakery’s eggs come from Brown Egg Company in Bentonia, Miss.

While their business has proved to be wildly successful, the sisters have no plans of slowing down. They are still working on adding additional menu items and expanding the catering side of the business.

“I put in a lot of long hours and it is a lot of work,” says Sprouts, “But no matter how tired I am, this has been my dream and I love it.”

Deserted Dwellings to Cozy Cottages

Ms MAg Jan 2015Mississippi Magazine
January/February 2015

When Chris Rakestraw left the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in finance in hand, he never intended to become a designer. In fact, the seed wasn’t planted until a few years later when Rakestraw purchased his first “fixer upper.” Less than a year later, he sold the house for a profit and began the search for another house he could redesign.  By then, he knew he had found his true calling. Shortly after, he left his job as a credit officer at a local bank and enrolled in design school at Mississippi State, where he received a bachelor’s in design in 2010.

One of Rakestraw’s latest endeavors has been the renovation of three, one bedroom shotgun houses in the heart of downtown Tupelo on North Green Street.

“I passed these little houses all the time while out running errands. They had been vacant for years and I just kept watching them decay. I remember after a really bad storm one of the front porches fell off,” he recalls. “Something about these houses spoke to me.”

In 2012, Rakestraw was just completing one of his biggest projects to date when he learned the price of the three cottages had been reduced by half. After giving it a lot of thought, he called his real estate agent and was able to secure a deal for the properties within 2 hours.

The homes – each ranging from 700-750 square feet – were constructed in 1936. While unsure of their exact origins, Rakestraw believes they were built to house displaced families after a devastating tornado hit the area. He admits the 76 year-old-houses were the oldest he had ever worked on. No surprise, they came with their fair share of problems.

“Sometimes when you purchase a house, you assume a certain level of risk,” says Rakestraw, who purchases 75-80% of his homes at auction. “You have to do your due diligence. The houses had a lot of issues, things we take for granted. Every inch of these houses had to be redone.”

For instance, none of the dwellings had central heat and air. The plumbing, electrical, roof, and foundations had to be completely overhauled. When it came to designing the interior, Rakestraw tried play off the uniqueness of each unit.

Says Rakestraw, “Each house had a different personality. It tried to keep things simple to appeal to a wider variety of tenants.”

Because the houses were in such terrible shape, much of the original details had either been scrapped or were not salvageable. However, in the unit known as the Tupelo House, Rakestraw discovered original heart-of-pine floors and ceilings. He chose to compliment the wood with neutral light grey walls accented with darker grey trim and moulding. He also removed an out-of-place coat closet in the living room and replaced it with a built-in desk. All of the doors in the cottage had to be replaced since none met today’s codes. However, instead of tossing the original doors, Rakestraw refurbished them into a mantle for the fireplace.

The original layout of each house was somewhat awkward by today’s standards, so Rakestraw decided to redesign the floor plans to improve the flow. This included swapping the kitchen and the bedroom. Typical shotgun-style plans include rooms stacked one behind the other – living room, bedroom, and kitchen in the back. Rakestraw didn’t feel like tenants would want to walk through their bedroom to get to the kitchen. Since the house had to be completely rewired anyway, crews were able to complete the transformation in just a few days. The kitchen was updated with marble countertops, new stainless steel appliances, and a moveable island topped with butcher block.

In order to maximize space, Rakestraw chose sliding barn doors to transition from the kitchen to the bedroom. A queen sized platform bed gives tenants extra storage underneath. The bed’s high headboard is adorned with the numbers 1936, a nod to the year the cottage was constructed. Rakestraw also incorporated a proper bathroom with a walk-in closet and washer and dryer into the redesign, eliminating the lean-to addition that served as the home’s only bathroom previously.

Outside, a few architectural details were added to give the cottages the curb appeal they needed. New front porches were constructed, beautiful arbors were added, and each cottage received new siding and a fresh coat of vibrant paint. Lush landscaping, including a courtyard with seating tucked away between two of the cottages, adds the finishing touch. Since completion in early 2013, Rakestraw has had 100% occupancy.

“I really wanted to design a high caliber home with these units. The style is a little eclectic, transitional, with influences of modern,” Rakestraw adds. “I am absolutely pleased with how these turned out. I have always loved these cottages and the turned out wonderfully.”

Shape Up and Have Fun!

MS Mag March April 2014

Mississippi Magazine
March / April 2014 Beauty Supplement

Mississippi native Kajal Desai combines aerobics with Bollywood to create one of the fastest growing workouts in America

Move over Zumba, there are a couple of new girls in town.

Eight years ago, fate would change the life of Kajal Desai forever. A small town Mississippi girl raised in Ellisville, Desai was living and working in Washington D.C. as a consultant for the U.S. government.  However, her real passion lay in the Indian folk dances her mother taught her as a child.

While Desai was born and raised in the United States, her parents hail from Gujarat, India. As a way to help her stay close to her family’s heritage, Desai’s mother taught her the traditional folk dances from her village. Desai perfected her moves by watching Bollywood movies, which is the largest film producer in India and one of the largest film producers in the world.

By the time Desai was an adult, she already had a deep-seated love for dance and a desire to do something more with that passion. It was then that mutual friends suggest she meet Priya Pandya. Over a cup of tea in 2005, the two women realized they had the same vision and decided to launch a business venture that would combine their love of dance with fitness.

The pair started offering a dance class once a week to residents of the DC area and doing local performances on the side. By 2007, their following had nearly doubled in size and Desai and Pandya decided it was time to take the plunge. They quit their day jobs and devoted themselves full time to the new company they named Doonya, after the Hindi word for “world.” After that, the craze seemed to take on a life of its own spreading from DC into New York City.

Exactly what is it about Doonya that makes it so popular? For starters, it involves a lot of high energy aerobic movement that gets the heart pumping and the muscles moving. Then there is the music. The beats are infectious, invigorating, and after a few minutes, your body wants to move. It’s that perfect combination that keeps a person motivated, even during the most intense parts of the workout, and coming back for more.

“The music and the movements might seem foreign at first, but it’s about letting go of your inhibitions and having fun,” Desai says.

Over the last eight years, Doonya has managed to garner a huge amount of publicity. The workout has been features in such notable publications such as Cosmopolitan, Shape, Elle, and The Huffington Post. The women have also appeared on Dr. Oz, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

After all that success, where do you go next? Desai and Pandya wanted to make Doonya accessible to more people and knew a DVD would be on the horizon. However, they wanted it to be more than just a dance video, they wanted it to have some credentials behind it. Desai earned certification as a group fitness instructor with the American Council on Exercise, while Pandya became a certified yoga instructor. As plans for the DVD began to take shape, both women devoted a lot of time researching the fitness aspects of the workout and developed dance moves to incorporate it. The attention to detail paid off. Within the first week of launching in February 2013, the DVD made it into the top 10 fitness videos list on Amazon.com.

Desai and Pandya continue to bring their workout to more people. Currently, they are setting up new classes at fitness centers across the U.S. and are even working with Weight Watchers to make the workout accessible to online members. However, despite all the success, Desai hasn’t forgotten that she’s a Mississippi girl at heart. Frequently during her visits home, she will offer a few classes at fitness centers across the state.

“We are really bringing to life the spirit of Bollywood,” Desai adds. “In one hour, you might start out feeling a little silly, but you’ll also start to feel a little sexy and you will smile a lot. That’s what health and happiness is really all about.”

Family, Friends, and Love

ms mag jan 2014Mississippi Magazine
January 2014

It was a chilly, crisp evening in October when friends and family came together to celebrate the engagement of Callie Mounger and Reid Wesson.  However, the atmosphere inside the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Mounger II of Jackson, was warm and inviting.

During her off time, one can frequently find Crisler Boone moonlighting as event planner and wedding coordinator. It’s a skill that proves to be invaluable in her full-time job as head of external affairs at Jackson Prepatory School. Boone previously worked with the Moungers on a capital-raising project for the school, where her abilities to host a good party soon became apparent.

“Cissye [Mrs. Mounger] told me, ‘Whenever one of mine gets engaged, I want you to plan it,” Boone says.

The opportunity finally arose when several of the Mounger’s close friends came together to throw the young couple an engagement party to end all parties. As the initial planning phase began, Boone knew she wanted every aspect of the night to be representative things that were important to the couple – family, friends, good food, and great music.

The role of the Mounger home played a significant role in Callie and Reid’s time together as a couple. In fact, Reid proposed to Callie while sitting by the fire pit in the Mounger’s backyard. Boone used that as the starting point, using the Mounger home not only as the backdrop for the party, but also incorporating it into other elements. Fresh Ink was recruited to design the party invitations. A watercolor print depicting a scene from the Mounger’s backyard was used as the background.

Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Catering and Floral oversaw the menu and floral arrangements. As guests approached the Mounger’s home, they were greeted by two vibrant topiaries made of apples, oranges, and artichokes flanking either side of the front door. The couple’s initials fashioned with moss-covered letters hung from each of the doors. Before entering, guests could leave their well-wishes on panes of glass in a reclaimed glass window that would later become a priceless memento for the newlyweds.

Once inside, a romantic pomander of delicate peach roses hung from the chandelier in the foyer. Guests then made their way to the beautifully landscaped backyard which overlooked the Mounger’s in-ground swimming pool and picturesque waterfront views just beyond. Floating lanterns, votives, and elegant lanterns provided soft and romantic lighting throughout the property.

Boone incorporated the couple’s initials “C & R” into several details throughout the party – from the cocktail napkins and menu place cards to the water feature in the center of the swimming pool. Neutral linens in bronze and taupe allowed the bright colors in the floral arrangements and surrounding landscape to pop.

Putt also found unique ways to incorporate the couple into the menu selections. The father of the bride provided vension for the wild game table, which was served alongside other unique dishes such as micro-deviled quail eggs and grilled quail legs with bourbon sauce. A s’mores station paid homage to the night the couple got engaged as well as allowed guests to indulge in a favorite childhood pastime. Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows were on hand, as well as a few gourmet touches such as peanut butter and flaked coconut.

Guests mingled and danced to the soulful sounds of Pryor Graeber and the Tombstones.

“The party was very Callie and Reid,” said Boone. “The Moungers have such big hearts and are so generous in the community.  You could tell that everyone in attendance had a love for the Moungers and this young couple embarking on a life together.”

En pointe: Celebrating 50 years of ballet in Mississippi

MS Mag Nov Dec 2013Mississippi Magazine
November / December 2013

You sit in a darkened auditorium.  Music fills your ears as the curtains part.  Elegant ballet dancers swirl across the stage in beautifully designed costumes.  For a moment, you wonder if somehow you have been magically transported thousands of miles away to New York City.  As the performance ends and the auditorium lights once again fill the room, you realize the performance you just witnessed took place right in your own backyard, in Jackson, Miss.

In 1964, a group of local Jacksonians established the Jackson Ballet Guild to promote an appreciation of dance within the community and cultivate the talents of rising and aspiring local dancers.  Fast forward almost 50 years later, the Jackson Ballet Guild has since transformed into the professional dance school and company now known as Ballet Mississippi.

David Keary has served as artistic director for Ballet Mississippi since 1994.  He began his training as a ballet dancer with the Jackson Ballet under the direction of the guild’s very first artistic directors, Albia Kavan Cooper and her husband Rex Cooper.  Keary would later go on to complete his training at the School of American Ballet, one of the most famous classical ballet schools in the world and the official school of the New York City Ballet.

As the golden anniversary of the founding of Ballet Mississippi approaches, Keary and his staff have begun preparing for a celebration to commemorate the momentous milestone.  Although the official anniversary is not until 2014, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host Stars of American Ballet presented itself as the perfect kickoff to next year’s festivities.

Stars of American Ballet is a New York-based touring group of top ranking principal and soloist dancers hailing from many of the most prestigious ballet companies in the United States.  The group travels across the country to cities where such a caliber of performance is not usually seen. Because the group’s schedule is rigorous and extensive, convincing them to make an unplanned stop is almost impossible.  However, that’s exactly what happened.

“I had been in contact with [Stars of American Ballet founder and director] Daniel Ulbricht off and on for several years,” explains Keary.  “One day he calls me out of the blue and tells me they will be traveling through Jackson on their way to Longview, Texas, from Mobile.  I told him we would make it happen.”

On November 3, Stars of American Ballet will showcase a series of performances, including four pas de deux by George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet and its balletmaster for more than 35 years.  Known as the father of American ballet, Balanchine is one of the most renowned choreographers in the history of dance.

The troupe will also perform Jerome Robbins’s masterpiece Fancy Free set to the music of Leonard Bernstein.  Robbins is well-known for his work as a producer, director, and choreographer for everything from classical ballet to contemporary musical theater.  His most recognizable works include the choreography for the 1956 motion picture The King and I and 1961’s West Side Story, for which he received an Academy Award for Best Director.  However Robbins’s original ballet, Fancy Free, is considered to be his most prolific work.  The story centers around three sailors on leave in New York City during World War II.  Both Balanchine and Robbins received Kennedy Center Honors, an annual award that recognizes individuals for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.

“Only a few dance companies in the world have the rights to perform these works,” explains Millie Clanton, associate executive director for Ballet Mississippi.  “Normally you would have to travel to New York City to be able to see such a performance.  This will be a top notch ballet performed right here in Jackson.”

In addition to providing Mississippians with the opportunity to view a world class ballet, the works being presented have special significance to Ballet Mississippi.  Albia Cooper studied at the School of American Ballet and was one of the first dancers to perform with Ballet Caravan and Ballet Society, companies both founded by Balanchine that would later become the New York City Ballet.  She was also close friends with Jerome Robbins.  In addition, Rex Cooper performed in the original 1944 performance of Fancy Free at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

“I grew up hearing stories about George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins when I studied under Albia,” recalls Keary.  “This is a very exciting opportunity to iconic works that have shaped American ballet.”

Immediately following the 4 p.m. performance at Thalia Mara Hall, a special gala reception – Sunday with the Stars – will be held at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the dancers and raise a toast to Ballet Mississippi, kicking off its 50th anniversary celebration.

Adds Keary, “The spring will bring all sorts of wonderful opportunities to shine a spotlight on ballet in Mississippi, not only for our 50th anniversary but also the upcoming International Ballet Competition [in June].  We will be honoring Albia and Rex, in addition to Thalia Mara [Ballet Mississippi’s first artistic director].   All three of these individuals are a part of our legacy and the backbone of everything Ballet Mississippi has been.”

Room at the Inn: Mississippi B&B’s offer guests unique travel experience and unrivaled hospitality

MS Mag Sept Oct 2013Mississippi Magazine
September / October 2013

When hustle and bustle of life becomes overwhelming, there is no better escape than a quaint bed and breakfast.  B&B’s offer a variety of exclusive amenities that you aren’t likely to find at other accommodations, such as personalized service, unique surroundings, and the ability experience a destination on a more intimate level.  Because of Mississippi’s unrivaled hospitality, we invite you to get to know a few B&B’s that are sure to provide and experience that will meet every expectation.

The Fairview Inn
Jackson

In order to experience the true flavor of Mississippi’s largest city and all it has to offer, The Fairview Inn in the historic Belhaven neighborhood of Jackson is the perfect setting.  Built in 1908, this Colonial Revival mansion is Jackson’s only AAA four-diamond small luxury hotel.

Peter Sharp and his wife Tamar purchased the Fairview in 2006.  According to Sharp, hospitality “runs in his blood.”  He began his career at age 14 and has worked in hotels and resorts all over the world.  When the couple decided to purchase a bed and breakfast of their own, they looked at 14 different inns across the Southeast before agreeing that the Fairview was the right fit.

“[The Fairview] looked like it had the most potential,” explained Sharp.  “I saw an opportunity for success.”

The Fairview was already a fully operational B&B by the time the Sharps came on board, boasting eighteen guest rooms.  Two months later, they opened Sophia’s Restaurant, a French-inspired fine dining restaurant with an intimate, romantic dining room in a garden-like setting.  Recently, they transformed the house’s original library into The Library Lounge, where guests can enjoy unique cocktails, micro-brewery draught and bottled beer, fine wines, and healthy appetizers.

“We have all the amenities of a hotel, but with the feeling of a bed and breakfast,” Sharp adds.  “You will not get a cookie cutter experience here.  We offer a very personalized environment.”

Guests can relax in one of the inn’s luxury rooms or suites, each decorated according to a different theme and accented with period antiques and collectables.  The expansive outdoor deck and gazebo, which overlooks The Fairview’s gardens, is the perfect spot to read a book or enjoy a glass of wine.  However, for those that require some serious pampering, nomiSpa is right on the grounds and provides relaxing massages, facials, and manicures and pedicures.

Says Sharp, “We are in the business of romance.  When you check-in, you feel like you are going back in time, but we have all the modern amenities.”

The Z Bed & Breakfast
Oxford

The Z Bed & Breakfast, known as “The Z” for short, is named after owners Annie and Brittany Zeleskey.  The sisters purchased the house after moving to Oxford from Texas to attend The University of Mississippi.  Opening a bed and breakfast was something the pair always dreamed of doing, but thought they would have to wait until later in life to fulfill their dream.  However, as graduation neared for Brittany and Annie prepared to begin her senior year, the sisters contemplated whether they should turn their dream in a reality.

“We were nearing the end of college and we had no commitments,” said Brittany Zeleskey.  “We though, let’s do this and see what happens.”

The Zelesky’s completely renovated the 54-year-old, 1900-square-foot cottage.  It features three bedrooms, each with a private bathroom; full kitchen; wood floors; and beautiful modern décor.  Upon check in, guests can expect to receive homemade goodies and sweet tea.  If the weather is nice, relax in one of two front porch swings or cozy up to a warm fire in the backyard fire pit.  The home is within walking distance of historic downtown Oxford and less than a mile from the Ole Miss campus; however, if you want to travel a little further, the inn also includes two bicycles in its list of available amenities.

The Zelesky’s also provide a full homemade breakfast as well as wine and cheese in the evenings.  While they accept reservations with as little as 24 hour notice, they do point out that football season and summer orientation are their busiest times.

“Owning a bed and breakfast has been really awesome.  We have such great guests and we love to meet people and hear their stories,” Brittany adds.  “The house is very comforting, which allows people to feel relaxed.  We try to do everything we can to accommodate our guests’ needs.”

Oak Crest Mansion Inn
Pass Christian

From the moment Chase and Erin Moseley laid eyes on the 1920’s mansion that would later become their bed and breakfast, the grand old house slowly weaved its way into their lives and their hearts.  A native of Meridian, Chase Moseley always had a fondness for the Mississippi Gulf Coast and dreamed of owning a home on or near the Gulf of Mexico.  The couple toured the house and the adjoining property, which had been on the market for several years, but decided the mansion would be more of an undertaking than they were will to invest at the time.

A few years passed, and in the fall of 2007 the Moseley’s began to hear rumors that the mansion was going to be torn down to make room for residential development.

“I decided it was time I either saved the house by buying it myself, or never drive down Menge Avenue again,” Mosely said.

The Moseley’s immediately began a series of much needed renovations and repairs.  The main house officially opened the following summer with five luxury suites, each with its own private bath, gas fireplace, and period furnishings. Each suite is named after a famous Mississippian, such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Nicholas Christian L’Adnier – the town’s namesake.  Later, the two-bedroom carriage house was opened followed by three suites in the Maison Portage.  The 12-acre property also features well-manicured gardens, a gazebo, pergola, two fountains, quaint chapel, and a 25 ft. x 55 ft. swimming pool — the oldest in-ground swimming pool in Mississippi.

“We like to say that Oak Crest is where history meets luxury.  Because the house had such a long standing history in the community, we tried to maintain the original architecture of the home while integrating it with modern amenties,” explains Mosely.

He adds, “You really get a sense of getting away when you come here.  It’s very quiet and very scenic.  However, we are only five minutes from the beach, 10 minutes from the casinos, and 24 minutes from New Orleans.”

Court Square Inn
Holly Springs

The Court Square Inn in Holly Springs is another example of how a historic building has gained new life.  The Italianate building dates back to 1865 and began as a small town pharmacy.  It would later earn the distinction of being Holly Spring’s first soda fountain.

When Tim and Lisa Liddy bought the building in 2004, it was being used as storage by the current owners.  The Liddy’s purchased the property without really having any concrete plans as to what they were going to do with it.

“My husband is a big history buff and an active member of the Holly Springs Historic Preservation Commission,” Lisa Liddy explains.  “He decided it was time to put his money where his mouth was, or in this case, his heart.”

It was Liddy’s brother-in-law that suggested the couple turn the building to a bed and breakfast.

“He had owned a bed and breakfast in New Orleans that closed after Hurricane Katrina,” said Liddy.  “He still had all the furnishings from his inn and told us we could have it if we wanted it.”

After three years of renovations, the Court Square Inn opened its doors in January 2007.  The inn features three luxury, apartment-style rooms.  Each has its own private bath and kitchen with views of the Marshall County Courthouse and Holly Springs town square.  The building also features a second-story balcony where Liddy says guests enjoy relaxing on a warm evening or sipping a glass of wine.  One and two bedroom units are available, making it perfect for a girl’s weekend or romantic getaway.

Holly Springs is also just a short drive from Oxford and the University of Mississippi, making it very popular during football season.

“We have a lot of return customers,” Liddy adds.  “People like the privacy, the New Orleans vibe of the inn, and the service they receive when they come here.”

Inn on Whitworth
Brookhaven

When John Lynch and his family moved to Brookhaven in 1995, he had a strong desire to become an active member of his new community.  A history enthusiast, Lynch became interested in preserving Brookhaven’s historic town square.

In early 2011, he purchased a two-story, 12,000-square-foot building in downtown Brookhaven.  Originally constructed in 1895 as the Cohn Brothers Mercantile Store, the building had seen numerous other businesses come and go throughout its 116-year history.

Renovations began almost immediately, including construction on the façade to bring the building back to what it originally looked like back in 1895.  Lynch opted to keep some of the features of the building that made it unique, such as the antique heart of pine floors, 19th century skylight in the lobby, and the huge century-old walk-in vault reminiscent of the building’s days as a mercantile store.  After eight months of construction, the Inn on Whitworth opened in November 2011, with seven luxury first-floor guest rooms.

“It’s a very unique space,” says Lynch.  “It’s not your typical inn located in a Southern home.  It’s a really cool space in a really cool historic building.”

Despite its historic roots, the interior of the Inn on Whitworth more closely resembles a modern boutique hotel.  Each room features thirteen foot ceilings and unique artwork by Mississippi artists Dr. Kim Sessums and Ed Williford, along with spacious modern bathrooms with glass walk-in showers, and either queen or double beds.  Sleek, modern furniture and light neutral colors give each space a calm and polished look.  Nestled in a secluded area, the inn’s “jacuzzi” room is the perfect romantic retreat.

“When guests stay here, they really get a flavor for downtown Brookhaven and that really contributes to the aesthetics of the inn,” said Innkeeper Sallie Williford.  “Guests find the decor very serene.  They can also expect very personable service.  We do everything we can to accommodate everyone’s needs and requests.”

The Old Place Bed and Breakfast
Amory

If escaping the fast lane is what you are looking for, the Old Place Bed and Breakfast on the outskirts of Amory may be just what you are looking.  The bungalow-style farmhouse was built in 1925 by the grandparents of owner Jimmy Glenn.  Glenn’s grandparents raised their family in the three bedroom house and as the children grew up and moved out, their childhood home eventually became known affectionately as “The old place.”

In 1999, Jimmy and his wife Theresa inherited “the old place.”  By then the aging house had been abandoned for over 30 years.  The couple vowed to restore it; however, they faced many challenges.  The house had no central heat and air, no indoor plumbing, the original roughhewn log walls had no insulation, and the house still had the original electrical work that was installed sometime in the 1930’s.

At some point during the renovation, a family friend suggested turning the house into a bed and breakfast.  When it came time to name their new inn, there was no question what it should be called.  In 2000, after a year of construction, The Old Place opened for business.

The home, which sits on 43 acres, still features the original wood burning fireplaces in all the bedrooms and living room, original pine floors, original glass window panes, and original handmade bricks.  Guests can enjoy a good book in the comfortable wicker furniture on the porch or partake in some “pet therapy.”  There are plenty of animals living on the property, including sheep, donkeys, geese, horses, and two Great Pyrenees.

“We are located within the city limits of Amory, but you would never know it.  We have a lot of space,” says Theresa Glenn, who manages the inn full-time.  “I love meeting our guests and they really seem to appreciate what we have here.”

Barnyard Bash

MS Mag Sept Oct 2013Mississippi Magazine
September / October 2013

Imagine waking up on the morning of your third birthday and discovering that your home has been magically transformed into Old McDonald’s farm.  For many preschoolers, this sounds like an absolute dream come true.  But for birthday boy Peyton Smith, this barnyard birthday bash was a reality.

Shanna Lumpkin of Shanna Lumpkin Events has had the honor of planning all of little Peyton’s birthday parties.  “Peyton’s mother originally brought me in to help plan a 40th birthday party for her husband, Allen,” Lumpkin explains.  “She mentioned that her son’s first birthday was coming up and asked if I could help plan something for that as well.  I have planned every party since then.”

Every parent of a preschooler knows that kids can become obsessed with certain items – like planes, trains, automobiles, or in Peyton’s case – pigs. 

“Peyton is a very sweet, fun-loving and energetic little boy who loves animals,” said Geri Beth Smith, Peyton’s mother.  “Shanna asked me what kind of things Peyton was interested in and the theme evolved from there.”

“We thought a barnyard theme would be so much fun,” adds Lumpkin. She enlisted the help of caterer Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Catering & Floral and friend Gail Mateer to transform the Smith’s Bridgewater home in Ridgeland into a farmstead both adults and children would enjoy.

Party goers were instantly transported into another world as they arrived that cool but sunny Saturday morning.  Thanks to Taylor’s Pony Parties, LLC, the Smith’s driveway was transformed into a petting zoo complete with pony rides for the kids.  Inside the petting zoo, children could interact one-on-one with real live barnyard animals including chickens, rabbits, goats, and of course, pigs.

Because no farm is complete without a big red barn, Lumpkin and Mateer constructed a huge wooden barn façade to serve as the focal point for the party.  The barn also doubled as the perfect backdrop for family photos.

“The barn provided a really neat tactile experience and gave us all kinds of activity opportunities for the kids,” said Lumpkin.

Putt’s menu – served buffet-style – incorporated creative spins on classic party food ideas that tied in perfectly with the theme of the party.  For the little field hands, the menu included kid-friendly foods such as pigs in a blanket, pretzel haystacks, cow print Rice Krispie treats, and mini apple pies.  Caramel corn was formed and wrapped in green tissue paper to create “popcorn on the cob,” while deviled eggs were shaped to look like baby chicks hatching from a shell.

The adult’s table included more grown-up fare.  The tablescape was accented with red and white gingham and burlap accents and featured fresh minted fruit salad served in halved out oranges, pasta salad with feta cheese, black olives, and pimentos, corn and couchon on toasted bread rounds, and bacon soufflé served with toasted bread rounds.  Cute but rustic looking mini chalkboards served as descriptive place cards for each dish.

Everyone knows that second only to the birthday boy himself, the birthday cake is the star of the show.  Lumpkin enlisted the help of Maria de La Barre of The Cake Diva to design the three-tiered strawberry cake complete with “a-moo-sing” barnyard details. The cake was offset by a blue ribbon candy bar that included whimsical cupcakes – also by The Cake Diva – an assortment of candies, and sweet little pony-shaped cookies.  Mini paper bags and scoops were close-by so guests could create their very own goodie-bag of assorted confections.

Obviously, after the festivities came to an end, The Smiths didn’t want to send their special guests home empty-handed.  Mateer hand-painted metal buckets to hang on the back of each guest’s chair.  The buckets held small personalized matchboxes that opened to reveal a set of assorted crayons molded into the shape of farm animals, tractors, and a barn.  Younger guests also received adorable broomstick ponies.

“The party definitely exceeded my expectations.  Within a few hours afterwards, I was receiving emails and text messages from guests letting me know what a wonderful time they had and asking to be put on the invitation list for next year,” said Smith.  “Everyone did a fabulous job pulling this off.  The food was over the top.  Everyone loved it.”

Shanna Lumpkin’s Top 10 Birthday Party Planning Tips:

  1. Plan for more than are invited.  Always ask for RSVP, but plan for more than will actually reply. For everything from food to favors, plan for about 10% more than actually invited.
  2. Ask parents about food allergies.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry! There are so many food allergies and no one can plan for them all without knowing. Most parents will let you know, yet it’s still a good idea to check!
  3. Serve the sweets (including the cake) during the last half hour of the party.
  4. When deciding how many children to invite, a good rule of thumb is to invite one more kid than the age of your child. If it their 4th birthday, invite 5 kids, 10th birthday invite 11, etc.  Once the child is school age and you are inviting schoolmates, it can be difficult to follow this rule. But if you can, it is a nice way to manage the guest list.
  5. Plan multiple celebrations.  If you have a large family, it’s a nice idea to have multiple, yet simple, celebrations. Rather than having 50 guests at one time, it might work better to have a smaller birthday party and then lunch/dinner with the grandparents or aunts and cousins.
  6. Ask for help.  If planning a party is something you excel at… perfect! Plan away! But if planning is not where you find your joy, by all means… hire a planner!
  7. Set an end time. Especially as kids get older, parents will begin to drop their kids off and it is important for them to know what time to return.
  8. Let guests know what you will serve.  If you plan to serve cake and snacks (a perfectly acceptable menu!) than let guests know. It’s a nice idea to incorporate that onto the invitation. There is no need to plan a full on meal. The time will also help to indicate your food choice. If you plan a 2-4pm party – in between lunch and dinner – a meal would not be expected.
  9. Plan a fun, but low maintenance, activity.  It makes the party much for enjoyable for the kids (and the parents too!) when the kids can entertain themselves. A fun craft activity that an older sibling or family member can oversee is great for older kids.  Something fun and low maintenance is ideal for younger kids, such as a baby pool full of colorful balls or balloons can do the trick!
  10. Consider alternating the big parties.  As a party planner you would think this goes against everything I believe in, but consider spacing out the “blowouts” and making the other years more simple and intimate. Not only will this help with your pocket book- but it will also help to make the larger parties more special and memorable for the birthday boy or girl.

A Legacy through Art: Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

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Mississippi Magazine
July / August 2013

The city of Laurel, like many towns nestled among the towering trees of Mississippi’s Pine Belt, can trace its roots back to the timber industry.  Founded in 1882, Laurel was officially put on the map after the Eastman, Gardiner & Company, of Lyons, Iowa, purchased approximately 26,000 acres of timber land and established a large sawmill near what would become downtown Laurel.  The tiny town flourished and the Eastman and Gardiner families invested heavily in the town’s infrastructure, building roads, houses for the mill workers, and establishing state-of-the art schools.

In 1921, twenty-three-year-old Lauren Eastman Rogers, recent college graduate and future heir to the Eastman-Gardiner empire, returned home to Laurel assume the reigns from his grandfather and marry the love of his life.  However, before the young man would have the opportunity to realize his potential, he passed away as a result of complications from appendicitis.  The entire town went into mourning, but the founding families were determined to leave a legacy in honor of the bright and talented young man.  Two years later, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art opened its doors.

Today the museum, housed in a beautifully constructed Georgian Greek Revival building in the center of Laurel’s historic district, has the distinction of being Mississippi’s oldest art museum.  It houses five permanent exhibits showcasing a wide variety of artistic mediums, including one of the finest collections of 19th and 20th century European and American art in the South.  Many of these works were donated by the Eastman and Rogers families during the early years of the museum.  The collection has grown considerably and now includes important additions in the areas of figurative sculpture, African American artists, and Mississippi artists.

The permanent exhibit also includes an extensive collection of Native American baskets.  Catherine Marshall Gardiner, great aunt to Lauren Rogers, became a prolific collector of baskets shortly after moving to Laurel.  Marshall had amassed nearly 500 pieces when she donated her collection to the museum.  Other art exhibits include a collection of 150 Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints in addition to an extensive display of British Georgian Silver produced by some of best-known silversmiths between 1714 and 1830.

“People are usually so surprised to find a museum of this caliber with a nationally-recognized art collection in a small town,” said George Bassi, director of the museum.  “Our collections are so varied.  You aren’t going to come here and see just one type of art form.”

Throughout the year, the museum board makes an effort to bring in traveling exhibits that will appeal not only to varying interests and age groups, but provide visitors the opportunity to be exposed to something they possibly have never seen before.  In the past, the museum has brought in exhibits on pop culture, space exploration, Rembrandt, and photographs by Linda McCartney.  Current exhibits include a showing of ceramics by world famous artist Pablo Picasso and a collection of fine art prints on rock & roll.

“Between our excellent permanent collection and our traveling exhibits, we really do have something to suit everyone’s taste,” said Holly Green, the museum’s director of marketing.

In May, the museum commemorated its 90th anniversary with the completion of a 5,400-square-foot expansion.  Mike Foil of Foil Wyatt Architects & Planners, PLLC, in Jackson designed the space.  A native of Laurel, Foil made numerous visits to the museum growing up.  His connection to the area – in addition to his experience in designing the first museum expansion back in 1983 – made him the perfect candidate to head up this important project.

Rather than creating something to match the current museum façade, Foil instead opted to go with a completely modern look and feel.

“I didn’t want to design something that would compete with the original structure,” Foil revealed.  “Instead, I designed something that would complement the existing texture of the original brick and limestone.”

The outside wall gently curves towards the original structure where it is met by an expanse of glass that connects the new wing to the old one.  The entire structure is wrapped in gleaming copper panels that will become an art form in and of themselves as their patina changes due to exposure from outside elements.  Inside, the addition houses three new galleries, a new climate controlled storage vault for housing the museum’s nationally recognized exhibits, and an expanded loading dock.

Visitors enter into the new galleries via a central staircase laid in black marble.  Known as the Stairwell Gallery, the space is used to display the museum’s collection of contemporary art, including its most recent purchase – an Aventurine Green Chandelier with Copper Leaf designed by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly.  Chihuly, who is considered by many to be the leading authority in the art of hand-blown glass art, founded of the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA, the world’s most comprehensive center for glass art education.

Chihuly’s work also has a previous connection to the museum.  A collection of his glass baskets was shown in 2001.  The chandelier was purchased from an art gallery in New Orleans and currently hangs directly over the central staircase.

“We wanted to purchase a signature piece of art to commemorate the 90th anniversary,” explained Green.  “We were drawn to the fact that the piece is by a living artist who is world-renowned and whose work been shown here before.”

Now that the new addition is complete, plans are underway to bring in bigger and better exhibits and expand into more visual and performing arts programs.

“Our museum is critical to the state from an educational standpoint,” adds Bassi.  He points out that in the 90 years the museum has been in operation, it has never charged an admission.  “The families wanted to make sure that everyone would have access to the arts.”

Green agrees, “This museum is special to both the state and the South.  Education is first and foremost.   Most people think you have to go to New York to see artwork of this caliber.  However, we have a standard of excellence that we always strive to achieve.”