Meridian Star

November 3, 2012

Arts and education grant presented to Montgomery Institute

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

— Economic growth doesn't always come in the form of smoke stacks extending high from the roof tops of factories. Sometimes it comes in much smaller doses with equally long term effects.

    Friday, at Widemann's Restaurant in downtown Meridian, representatives of AT&T in Meridian presented a $10,000 check to officials with the Montgomery Institute to be distributed with matching funds from the institute to rural communities and to towns and city programs that promote the arts, education and the entrepreneurial spirit among artists.

    "This funding is for the integrated arts and education programs the Montgomery Institute will launch in the coming weeks," said C.D. Smith, regional director of AT&T.

    Richelle Putnam from the Montgomery Institute said the funding will go to nine counties, five in East Mississippi and four in West Alabama. She said in places such as Meridian, arts and entertainment is such a big part of the local economy. The same could be true for rural areas as well, she said.

    "A lot of rural communities don't have the funding and are missing out on the potential creative people can have on the area," said Putnam. "This funding will also help the artists themselves to show them how to market their art and to be entrepreneurs."

    Demopolis, Ala., Mayor Mike Grayson welcomes the opportunities this funding will have on his area. He has noted, as have many community leaders, the slowdown of industrial expansion. He looks forward to the advantages this program will have on his area.

    "Not only from the economic standpoint but also for the young people who will be exposed to the arts," Grayson said. "This will give them a sense of value and self worth."

    Putnam said the program's arts and education aspect is aimed at pre-K children who are from lower income areas and who are not exposed to the arts as readily as others.

    "It is important to get these sorts of programs to the children as early as possible," Putnam said.

    Bill Crawford, president of the Montgomery Institute said each city, town and community will be reimbursed using the grant money and matching funds.

    "We will go by what each community needs and what they can have the most success with in terms of the type of program assistance they will receive," said Crawford. "The money will be distributed on a case by case basis but the overall goal is to make this available to everyone who wants it."

    Allison Winstead of the Mississippi Arts Commission said the beautiful thing about this type of spark for the economy is that it is not tied down by all the usual restrictions most industries face.

    "The creative economy is not based on location or population," Winstead said. "It can go anywhere, anytime, and not be tied down to a region."