Donors Underwrite Southern Foodways Alliance’s ‘Gravy’

Major gift will allow UM center to continue telling stories of the region through its food

Brook and Pam Smith at Castle & Key Distillery, where the couple are partners, outside Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Steven Freeman

OXFORD, Miss. – Knowing the unifying qualities of food, Brook and Pam Smith of Louisville, Kentucky, have pledged $1 million to support “Gravy,” a podcast produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi.

“Folks in different places appreciate when someone from one cultural segment takes the time to dine with others from a different cultural segment,” Brook Smith said. “It’s a show of respect and appreciation for a culture that may be different from their own, and that’s what we seem to be missing in our country today.”

Whenever the Smiths travel, they try to meet members of the Southern Foodways Alliance along the way. A member-supported nonprofit institute of the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the SFA sponsors scholarships, mentors students, stages symposia, collects and shares oral histories, and produces and publishes books, podcasts and films.

On a recent trip to visit Pam’s family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Smiths detoured to Hemingway, South Carolina, where Scott’s Bar-B-Q, praised by The New York Times, attracts customers from hundreds of miles away.

“My whole life has been barbecue,” said pitmaster Rodney Scott, who just opened his own barbecue restaurant in nearby Charleston, South Carolina. “I grew up doing it, hanging around it and hanging around other people that do it. And there’s just no other way to bring people in quicker. It’s like a beacon sign; it just draws them right in there.”

That spirit drew in the Smiths. So did the storytelling work of the SFA.

“‘Gravy,’ which was awarded publication of the year in 2015 by the prestigious James Beard Foundation, shares stories of the changing American South through the foods we eat,” said John T. Edge, SFA director. “‘Gravy’ showcases a South that is constantly evolving.

“We use food as a means to complicate stereotypes, document new dynamics and give voice to the often unsung folk who grow, cook and serve our daily meals.”

Edge is grateful for the Smiths’ generous gift.

“This sort of long-term commitment offers funding stability so that the SFA can take risks to tell stories in new and bold ways,” Edge said. “At a moment when ‘Gravy’ recently delivered its 1 millionth download, Brook and Pam have invested deeply in our most scalable and sharable effort.

“They are long-time members of the organization who know and respect the role that food plays in the cultural life of our nation.”

Smith found success in the surety bonding business. He’s also a wine and distillery owner as well as a philanthropist with an interest in organizations that focus on improving life for young people and those like the SFA, which inspires communities to invest in their culinary customs and, in so doing, establishes lasting, cross-cultural relationships.

Smith also has an ongoing commitment to Appalachian Kentucky and recently established a private philanthropic fund focused on economic development in the region that includes an interest in development driven by local mountain food traditions and small-scale farming.

He and Pam have three sons: Reed, 21; Mac, 18; and Grayson, 16.

Before establishing the Smith Family Gravy Boat Fund, the Smiths donated $250,000 in 2014 to support the SFA’s Smith Symposium Fellows program, which invites individuals whose work promises a positive impact on the South to be guests at the SFA’s fall symposium.

Brook Smith trusts his gift will boost operating funds, enabling the organization to better document, study and explore the diverse food cultures of the American South.

“Food starts conversations,” he said “You get into who makes it and where the products come from. It’s an ice breaker.

“People talk about the weather, but talking about barbecue is a lot more interesting.”

Private gifts are crucial to the university’s well-being and especially to programs such as the SFA, which depend on donor support to operate, UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“We are tremendously grateful to receive generous donations, especially from such passionate supporters as the Smiths,” Vitter said. “It speaks to the impact of our university programs, not just in the state, but across the country and around the world.

“The Smiths’ gift will ensure that many more people will be enriched by the SFA for years to come. These kinds of contributions are a vital part of our university’s sustained growth, reach, impact and success.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to support the Southern Foodways Alliance or the Center for the Study of Southern Culture by mailing a check with the endowment noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift or contacting Nikki Neely Davis, development officer for the CSSC at 662-915-6678 or nlneely@olemiss.edu.

Download “Gravy” for free from the iTunes store and the SFA website. For more information, visit http://www.southernfoodways.org and follow on Twitter @Potlikker.

Former UM Director Receives Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Ferris to be honored at 2017 Governor's Arts Awards

Bill Ferris (left) looks over a copy of Living Blues magazine with blues great B.B. King during a visit by King to the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, when Ferris was director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William R. Ferris, the preeminent scholar and documenter of Mississippi’s rich culture, music and folklore, has been documenting the lives of Mississippians for more than 50 years. On Feb. 16, the Mississippi Arts Commission will honor him with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Ferris is a scholar, author, documentary filmmaker and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. For him, the award is linked to the center in a deep and wonderful way, as well as to the Oxford community.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I know it would never have happened without the work I was blessed to do at the University of Mississippi and at the center,” Ferris said. “It was a special period in my life that connected me to Mississippi in ways that were very special and very moving, and I know full well that the friendships I was able to share there are a big part of why I was selected for this honor.”

The award is an opportunity to look back and appreciate more deeply what one’s life’s work represents, since in the moment, totally engaged and working, it can be difficult to see where things will land, said Ferris, who was on the Ole Miss faculty from 1979 to 1998.

Southern studies students are leading various areas in new and exciting ways, said Ferris, who keeps up with the program’s students and alumni.

“I look around the state, the region and the nation and know there are powerful voices that were shaped at the center and by the Southern studies program,” he said.

Ferris grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg and developed an early love of storytelling, books, art and music. In 1997, he became chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton.

Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina.

The 2017 recipients will be recognized at the 29th annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson at 6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 16). A public reception at 4:30 precedes the awards.

“When I first found myself out in the cultural landscape of Mississippi’s vast richness, Bill was already there, established and knee-deep in the exploration of art and culture,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “Bill is a pathfinder and an icon of this work, and I am proud to be at the helm of MAC on this occasion of his recognition.”

Other award recipients include Sammy Britt (MFA art ’66), Excellence in Visual Art; Vasti Jackson, Arts Ambassador; Lucy Richardson Janoush, Arts Patron; Jaimoe Johnie Johnson, Excellence in Music; and the Mississippi Opera, Artistic Excellence.

“Because these six recipients have made a significant and lasting impact on our state’s arts culture, it is fitting to recognize them during Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration,” White said.

Ferris is the author of 10 books, including “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), “You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget it All: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules, and Men” (Anchor Books, 1992) and his latest, “The South in Color: A Visual Journey” (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities and France’s Chevalier and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters. The Blues Hall of Fame recognized his book “Blues from the Delta” (Anchor Press, 1978) as one of the classics of blues literature.

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations for the excellence of their work in a wide variety of art forms including visual, literary and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.

UM Professor to Receive Mississippi Humanities Council Honor

Jodi Skipper to be given Humanities Scholar Award Feb. 10 in Jackson

Jodi Skipper

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi anthropology and Southern studies professor is among five people being honored this month by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Jodi Skipper will receive the Humanities Scholar Award on Feb. 10 during the council’s 2017 Public Humanities Awards program in Jackson. The agency recognizes outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities.

“I was first surprised, and then pleased, by the news,” said Skipper, an assistant professor. “The MHC Humanities Scholar Award uniquely recognizes my work with local communities.

“As academicians, our value is largely associated with research and teaching, with community engagement and service often undervalued. The MHC recognizes the significance of public humanities work to academic scholarship.”

A public anthropologist who thinks through how to represent difficult pasts in the present, Skipper specifically addresses the underrepresentation of enslaved communities at historic sites in the South. Her research prioritizes collaboration with communities seeking to address these issues at local levels.

“I was selected to receive this award in recognition of my involvement with the ‘Behind the Big House’ program, a slave dwelling interpretation program started by Jenifer Eggleston and Chelius Carter in Holly Springs,” she said. “I have been privileged enough to help with their project, which interprets the lives of enslaved persons through the homes in which they once lived.”

The program is the only one in the country established with that specific purpose.

“My future goal is to help develop this program as a model for other sites in the state and beyond,” Skipper said.

UM administrators congratulated Skipper on her honor.

UM anthropology and Southern studies professor Jodi Skipper (center) works with the ‘Behind the Big House’ program in Holly Springs. Submitted photo

“Jodi Skipper is a multitalented scholar who brings the skills of an archaeologist, ethnographer and public historian to her work,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair and associate professor of sociology and anthropology. “Her focus on developing programming and research projects that keep community members’ interests ‘front and center’ represents the kind of rigorous publicly engaged scholarship our department is eager to support.

“She is a leader in this field and we are thrilled that the MHC has recognized her with this prestigious award.”

Ted Ownby, director of UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and professor of history, concurred with Dellinger.

“She designed a Southern studies class about the politics of cultural tourism in the South, and students in that class both read theoretical and descriptive work about tourism and its meanings, and then they go out and talk to people involved in thinking about history and how to present it to the public,” Ownby said. “It’s that kind of innovation that helped earn her the humanities award, and I’m very excited for her.”

Skipper joined the UM faculty in 2011. Besides teaching introductory courses in anthropology and Southern studies, she also leads courses on historical archaeology, African diaspora studies, Southern heritage and tourism.

A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Skipper earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Grambling State University, a master’s in anthropology from Florida State University and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Texas. Before coming to UM, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina Institute for Southern Studies.

Other MHC honorees and their awards are Peggy Prenshaw of Jackson, the Cora Norman Award; Richard Grant of Jackson, Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award; Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, Humanities Partner Award; and David Morgan of Bay St. Louis, Humanities Educator Award.

Twenty-nine recipients of the 2016 Humanities Teacher Awards, including UM modern languages professor John Gutierrez, also will be honored at the event. A ceremony and reception begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Tickets for the MHC Public Humanities Awards ceremony are $50 each and may be purchased by sending a check to the Mississippi Humanities Council, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Room 317, Jackson, MS 39211, or online at http://www.mshumanities.org/index.php/programs/awards.

For more information about the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology, visit http://socanth.olemiss.edu. For more about the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, go to http://southernstudies.olemiss.edu.

UM Food Day Celebration Features Day of Service, Pop-Up Market, More

Events scheduled throughout October to educate and get community involved

fooddaygrpahic1

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will observe Food Day, a nationwide celebration that focuses on the importance of improving American diets and food policies, throughout October.

Food Day events commence with a composting workshop hosted by Sustainable Oxford at 6 p.m. Monday (Oct. 3) at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center.

Campus events kick off on Thursday (Oct. 6) with the Office of Sustainability’s sixth annual Food Day Festival on the Union Plaza, highlighting food-related resources in Oxford. Set for noon-3:30 p.m., the festival features a farmers market, food samples, educational displays and other activities.

“Through Food Day, the Office of Sustainability aims to engage more people in a topic that involves us all: how we are fed,” said Kendall McDonald, sustainability fellow in the Office of Sustainability. “By empowering university members to be local food heroes through education and service learning, we believe a just, inclusive and resilient food system is possible.”

This year, Food Day will incorporate a service component through the Food Day of Service, a half-day event on Oct. 22. During Food Day of Service, volunteers will complete projects affiliated with local school and community gardens and the UM Compost Program.

Food Day of Service volunteer sites include gardens at the Boys and Girls Club, Oxford School District and Lafayette County Schools, plus the Oxford Community Garden and the UM Compost Program site. Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. in the Ole Miss Student Union ballroom for a kickoff ceremony before traveling to the sites. Register to join Food Day of Service here.

On Oct. 25, the Office of Sustainability will host a screening of the film “Food Chains,” followed by a guided discussion led by Catarina Passidomo, UM assistant professor of Southern studies and anthropology. The screening is set for 7 p.m. at Shelter on Van Buren.

The film examines the human cost of America’s food system through the lens of tomato pickers in southern Florida, who work from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., earning just $40 a day – a price dictated by large supermarkets.

“Many of us don’t have a good understanding of labor abuses in the food system or an appreciation for the people whose labor remains relatively invisible,” Passidomo said. “I hope that people will come away from the film with a better and deeper understanding of the politics and processes that underlie our contemporary food system.”

On Oct. 26, a pop-up farmers market in the parking lot of the Oxford Intermediate School will wrap up Food Day activities. The market runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

This year’s Food Day celebration also incorporates educational events for community children, including an activity Oct. 15 at the UM Museum’s Family Activity Day and a scavenger hunt activity for children affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club that will take place during the pop-up farmers market.

“Studies show that introducing children to the process of healthy foods will increase their consumption of these foods,” said Denae Bradley, AmeriCorps VISTA in the Office of Sustainability. “During the pop-up market, children at the Boys and Girls Club will participate in a scavenger hunt, where they will engage with local vendors by asking them questions about their product, as well as try new foods that they may have never tasted before.”

The Food Day activities are organized by the UM Office of Sustainability in partnership with Sustainable Oxford. To learn more about sustainability at UM, visit http://green.olemiss.edu/.

UM Museum Exhibit Features Work of William Eggleston

Renowned photographer acclaimed for transforming ordinary scenes into fine art

William Eggleston's photographs will be on display at the UM Museum Sept. 13 to Jan. 17.

William Eggleston’s photographs will be on display at the UM Museum Sept. 13 to Jan. 17.

OXFORD, Miss. – Through the eye of photographer William Eggleston, nothing is ordinary, despite his photographs’ apparent depiction of ordinary things and ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Eggleston once said, “I am at war with the obvious,” a phrase curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art thought apt enough to use as the title for a 2013 exhibit of his photographs from their permanent collection.

The University of Mississippi Museum presents “The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston,” an exhibit of 36 color and black-and-white photographs from the museum’s own remarkable permanent collection, including some never before exhibited.

The exhibit, sponsored by Friends of the Museum, opens Sept. 13 and runs through Jan. 14, 2017. The public is invited to an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 6.

Eggleston, a Memphis native, acquired his first camera in 1957 at age 18. During his time studying art at Ole Miss, his interest in photography grew. He soon began to experiment with color negative film. Today, Eggleston is a world-renowned innovator of color photography, transforming ordinary scenes into fine art.

The University Museum owes its collection of Eggleston photographs to the generosity of Bill Ferris, scholar, author and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, who personally donated them all. Ferris, a photographer and longtime friend of Eggleston, describes him as “the greatest living color photographer.”

“He is the Picasso or Faulkner of what he does,” Ferris said. “This exhibit at the museum allows everyone to know his work, which is part of the legacy of Ole Miss.”

Michael Glover, art critic for the British newspaper The Independent, agrees. His review of the 2013 opening of the permanent Eggleston installation at the Tate Modern was headlined, “Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer.”

Greatest or not, art critics agree that Eggleston’s work has shaped art photography since 1976, when the Museum of Modern Art presented “William Eggleston’s Guide,” its first-ever solo exhibition of color photographs

Since that watershed exhibit, Eggleston’s work has influenced art photography and even filmmaking. Film directors citing his influence include John Huston, Gus Van Sant and David Lynch.

It was Lynch who brought Eggleston to the attention of this exhibit’s guest curator, Megan Abbott, the university’s 2013-14 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence and an Edgar Award-winner.

Abbott has drawn her own inspiration from his photos for many of her novels. She helped choose the pieces for the exhibit, which capture scenes from more than two decades.

“To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch,” she said. “When you look long enough at his photographs, like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images, you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

Acclaimed photographer, first cousin and Eggleston protege Maude Schulyer Clay served as consulting adviser for the exhibit. Last year, German photo book publisher Steidl produced a collection of Clay’s portraits titled “Mississippi History.” Steidl discovered her photographs while working with Eggleston on the multi-volume set “Chrome (2011) and “Los Alamos Revisited (2012).

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will host a symposium Oct. 7 at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, with discussion panels at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The morning panel will include Megan Abbott, Bill Ferris and Maude Schuyler Clay, and will be moderated by author Lisa Howorth. The afternoon panel will feature Emily B. Neff, executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum; Richard McCabe, curator of photography at the Ogden Museum of Art; and UM art historian Kris Belden-Adams.

The University Museum, at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, go to http://museum.olemiss.edu/  or follow the museum on Twitter and Instagram at @ummuseum and on Facebook.

UM History Professor Earns Prestigious Fellowship

Jessica Wilkerson to spend coming year completing book on women-led movements in the South

Jessica Wilkerson

Jessica Wilkerson

OXFORD, Miss. – Jessica Wilkerson, an assistant professor of history and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi, is trading Oxford for Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the 2016-17 academic year as part of the Visiting Scholars Program at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The academy’s Visiting Scholars Program provides residential fellowships for junior faculty members and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences. The fellowship offers scholars a year for research and writing free from teaching and administrative duties, a collaborative work environment and an opportunity to interact with academy members.

“The academy also organizes weekly seminars when we will meet with the other fellows, as well as editors, publishers and senior scholars, to discuss our work,” said Wilkerson, who has taught classes on Southern history, women’s history, contemporary U.S. history and oral history at UM since fall 2014.

Her research interests include Southern and Appalachian history, U.S. women’s and gender history, labor and working-class history, 20th century social movements and oral history. She earned her master’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In spring 2016, Wilkerson taught a successful graduate class on oral history techniques. The class ended with students performing short pieces from their oral histories.

One of the students in that class, Kate Wiggins, said she learned a great deal about how to capture personal stories of oral history subjects.

“I enrolled in Dr. Wilkerson’s class with a curiosity about oral history, and I found that I loved it,” said Wiggins, a second-year master’s student in Southern studies from Boone, North Carolina. “This work is not easy, and Dr. Wilkerson’s guidance and gentle nudging outside our comfort zones made us all better interviewers and students.”

Wilkerson will not be required to teach any classes at the academy so she can devote all her energy to writing “Where Movements Meet: From the War on Poverty to Grassroots Feminism in the Appalachian South.” The book traces the alliances forged and the grassroots movements led by women in the Appalachian South in the 1960s and ’70s.

She received the news just before spring break, and said she was pleasantly surprised.

“My motto is to apply for anything and everything that could support my research and writing, and that means I am used to getting rejection letters,” Wilkerson said. “But every now and then, the stars align. I feel very fortunate to have the time to pursue my writing goals, and I am grateful for the support of the academy and the University of Mississippi.”

Housed at the academy headquarters, visiting scholars participate in academy-sponsored conferences, seminars and informal gatherings while advancing their scholarly research. The academy provides office space and computer services as well as library privileges in cooperation with the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University.

Nearly 60 academic institutions across the country have become university affiliates of the academy, supporting the Visiting Scholars Program and participating in academy studies on higher education.

Wilkerson said she is looking forward to meeting the other seven visiting fellows in her cohort.

“I love being a part of small, focused scholarly communities and writing groups, so it’s a perfect fit for me,” she said. “And while I enjoy small-town life, it will be lovely to explore a new-to-me city. Is there a more intellectually thriving place than Boston and Cambridge? Museums, bookstores, lectures, exhibits, performances galore. It will be fabulous!”

‘Gravy’ Wins Second James Beard Foundation Award

gravypodcastjbfa-300x300The James Beard Foundation has honored “Gravy,” a product of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, as the nation’s best podcast.

In 2015, the foundation named Gravy, the SFA’s quarterly print journal and podcast, as its Publication of the Year. Gravy shares stories of the changing American South through the foods everyone eats.

SFA members receive the printed journal Gravy four times a year, while “Gravy,” a free 25-minute podcast, is available on the SFA website or through iTunes. Both serve up fresh, unexpected and thought-provoking stories of an American South that is constantly evolving, accommodating new immigrants, adopting new traditions and lovingly maintaining old ones.

It is an honor to win a James Beard Award for the second year in a row, said Sara Camp Arnold Milam, Gravy’s managing editor.

“Though our work is grounded in the U.S. South, we explore issues of universal relevance – including class, race, ethnicity, gender and labor – through the lens of food,” Milam said. “It is extremely gratifying to receive national recognition for Gravy.”

The SFA’s quest to dig into lesser-known corners of the region and give voice to those who grow, cook and serve daily meals couldn’t be bound by print. So, in 2014, SFA launched “Gravy” the podcast, produced and hosted by Tina Antolini, a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and a National Public Radio veteran.

Recent podcasts pondered the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel and Southern nostalgia. Another focused on the food world behind the scenes at Indian-owned motels.

“It is so gratifying to have these stories – and their subjects and the radio producers I’ve collaborated with – recognized,” Antolini said in her acceptance speech.

A member-supported nonprofit based at the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies and explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.

For more information on the SFA and Gravy, go to http://www.southernfoodways.org/.

Donors Support Art in Southern Foodways Alliance Programming

Gifts will support creative relationships to bolster SFA events

Lyon Hill and Kimi Maeda present Barbecue Puppet Theater at the 2012 SFA Symposium. Photo by Brandall Atkinson.

Lyon Hill and Kimi Maeda present Barbecue Puppet Theater at the 2012 SFA Symposium. Photo by Brandall Atkinson.

OXFORD, Miss. – While food nourishes the body, art nourishes the soul. The Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi expertly blends both into programming, and supporters believe the two will continue to pair well together for years to come.

Impressed by the SFA’s use of art to enhance the presentation of Southern food culture, two donors – the 21c Museum Hotel group and another patron who wishes to remain anonymous – recently committed major gifts in support of performing and visual arts at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual symposium.

“We showcase artistic expression in ways that encourage annual symposium attendees to engage with issues like environment, identity, gender, class and race in new and challenging ways,” said SFA Director John T. Edge. “We are thrilled that these two donors have recognized our efforts and have chosen to align themselves with us through their support of our programs.”

The 21c Museum Hotel group first participated in the SFA symposium in 2007.

“After a weekend of enlightening discussion, food and drink, we left feeling a renewed kinship to the South,” said Sarah Robbins, chief hospitality officer. “We’ve returned each year with our growing family of chefs. We always depart with a full belly and a better understanding of the responsibility and fortune of being a part of the region.”

The brainchild of contemporary art collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c was founded in Louisville, Kentucky, with the mission of making contemporary art accessible to the public. The result was a boutique hotel combined with a contemporary art museum, open free of charge to the public, and restaurant Proof on Main.

The company operates five properties, each one a place where contemporary art challenges, amuses and provokes new ideas. The group’s gift will sustain annual art installations exhibited during the SFA’s symposium.

“We hope this gift will help expose a new audience to innovative art and ideas, providing a visual context for the important discussions happening at the symposium and beyond,” Robbins said.

“At 21c Museum Hotel, we engage our team, our guests and the community through contemporary art, cultural programming and food. These are all opportunities to discover and to spark conversation around topical ideas. Through these communal experiences of discovery, ideas are born and spread. SFA’s mission to address complex cultural issues is complementary to ours, and we are thrilled to partner with them on this important initiative.”

Besides the annual art installations, the SFA has staged Sunday morning performances at its symposium for the past seven years. From ballet to street theatre, from a puppet show to an oratorio, such performances will be supported by a major gift to the SFA’s performing arts fund.

The additional gift from an anonymous contributor will ensure that artists are paid well and programming reaches a larger audience through the restaging and distribution of interpretive materials. Additionally, the funding will drive new creative relationships with artists, amplify existing relationships and facilitate SFA-led collaborations across disciplines. The 2016 Sunday performance will feature Appalachian artists Silas House, novelist, and Sam Gleaves, musician.

“Through these performances, the SFA shares stories inspired by the South and by Southern experiences,” Edge said. “In the now-crowded marketplace of food ideas, these stories spark honest reflection and foster genuine progress while offering new ways to address complex Southern issues with national implications.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to support the Southern Foodways Alliance or the Center for the Study of Southern Culture by mailing a check (with SFA or CSSC noted in the memo line) to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; visiting http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift or contacting Nikki Neely Davis, development officer for the CSSC at 662-915-6678 or nlneely@olemiss.edu.

Oxford Conference for the Book Brings Variety of Authors to UM

Poets, journalists, scholars and readers coming to campus March 2-4 for free event

Ed Larson

Ed Larson

OXFORD, Miss. – Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, as well as first-time novelists, are part of the variety of legendary and debut writers hosted at the Oxford Conference for the Book, set for March 2-4. Poets, journalists, scholars and readers will visit the University of Mississippi for the 23rd conference.

The three-day event, which is free and open to the public, includes readings, panel discussions and lectures.

The conference is a great way for Oxford visitors and locals to explore the town and the university, said James G. Thomas Jr., conference director.

“We try to open doors with this conference, both literally and metaphorically,” said Thomas, associate director of publications at the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“By that I mean the sessions open up doors for thought and inquiry, and the venues we’re hav­ing them in are places that some Oxford residents, stu­dents, and visitors may not have had the opportunity to explore, such as the Lafayette County courthouse, the Barksdale-Isom House, the UM library’s Faulkner Room and even the University Museum.”

This year’s writers include novelists Rick Bass, Bobbie Ann Mason, Margaret McMullan, Robert Gipe, Taylor Brown and UM Grisham Writer in Residence Kiese Laymon; Mississippi historians Minion K.C. Morrison and Dennis Mitchell; historian and gender studies scholar LaKisha Michelle Simmons; poets Richard Katrovas, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Caki Wilkinson, Jericho Brown, Katie Peterson, Chiyuma Elliott and UM professors Beth Ann Fennelly and Derrick Harriell; histori­an Mark Essig; literary scholar Vereen Bell; and Pulitzer Prizewinners journalist Sheri Fink and historian Edward J. Larson.

Larson, professor of law at Pepperdine University, is the author of nine books, the most recent of which, “The Return of George Washington,” was on The New York Times bestseller list in 2015. He has lectured on all seven continents.

“I love Oxford, I have been for tailgating in the Grove since back when I was on the University of Georgia’s athletic board and the SEC was a 10-team conference,” Larson said. “Oxford has the best catfish anywhere. What I want to do next in Mississippi is to bike the Natchez Trace.”

Margaret McMullan

Margaret McMullan

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events will take place in the auditorium of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, and the conference will begin with a lecture and free luncheon, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, in the Faulkner Room in Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library, also on the UM campus. Friday’s panels and readings will take place in the main courtroom of the historic Lafayette County courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Lyn Roberts, general manager at Square Books, calls the conference a celebration of books for everyone.

“The Oxford Conference for the Book has a history and tradition of bringing authors, both debut and established, to Oxford and the University of Mississippi, allowing everyone in the community and anyone who wants to travel the opportunity to hear them read from their works and discuss books,” Roberts said.

Conference panels will explore a wide range of topics, in­cluding Mississippi history; childhood in the South; mem­oir writing; youth, activism, and life in the Mountain South; poetic responses to Langston Hughes; Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”; the Hurricane Katrina crisis; America’s continuing debate over science and religion; and a cultural and culi­nary history of the pig.

“I’m excited to introduce Mark Essig to the OCB audience,” said Sara Camp Milam, who will moderate Friday’s 10:30 a.m. panel, sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance. “His work is as engaging as it is educational. ‘Lesser Beasts’ was one of my favorite food studies books of 2015. For students thinking about how to make their academic work accessible to a general audience, I’d recommend attending this session.”

A new event this year is a poetry session paired with an art exhibition by photographer Youngsuk Suh. At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, following the “Poetic Responses to Langston Hughes” session, the University Museum will host a free recep­tion.

“Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at 6 p.m. Thursday at Off Square Books, 129 Courthouse Square, featuring conference authors and visiting musicians. The day’s authors will be there to meet conference attendees and sign books. Each afternoon following the sessions, Square Books will host book signings for that day’s authors.

Mark Essig

Mark Essig

The Children’s Book Festival will be held March 4 at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 1,200 first- and fifth-graders from area schools. Laurie Keller, author of “The Scrambled States of America,” will present at 9 a.m. for first graders, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of “Counting by 7s,” will present at 10:30 a.m. for fifth graders. The Lafayette County Literacy Council sponsors the first-grade program and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford spon­sors the fifth-grade program.

Four special social events are set on the Ole Miss campus and in town. On March 2, the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library will host an opening lunch beginning at 11 a.m. in Archives and Special Collections. The lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated. That evening is the gala opening-night cocktail reception-dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the historic Barksdale-Isom House, 1003 Jefferson Ave. A portion of the $50 ticket proceeds is tax-deductible.

At noon March 4, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch with poet Richard Katrovas. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are appreciated.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, Southern Documentary Project, Southern Foodways Alliance, Living Blues magazine, University Museum, Lafayette County Literacy Council, UM Department of English, J.D. Williams Library, Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Southern Literary Trail and the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative.

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford.

To see a full schedule of events, visit http://oxfordconferenceforthebook.com/ or contact James G. Thomas Jr. at 662-915-3374 or jgthomas@olemiss.edu.

Author Who Explores World of Food Trends Coming to UM

David Sax, guru of what America eats, to lecture Feb. 29

David Sax

David Sax

OXFORD, Miss. – Popular foods for 2016 include kimchee and packaged seaweed strips, but David Sax already knew that. Sax, an award-winning journalist and author, explores the world of food trends: where they come from, how they grow and where they end up.

He will discuss the latest culinary developments at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

In his latest book “The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes and Fed up with Fondue,” Sax explores the world of food trends and searches for the farmers, chefs and even data analysts who help decide what is on America’s dinner plate.

He said his interest in food trends developed because he had been writing about food from two different angles: the culinary aspect of restaurants and chefs, and also the big corporate world of food companies.

“What I kept seeing was that those two were converging, and food trends were shaping conversations on both ends,” Sax said. “I wanted to find out why we suddenly all want to eat something (cupcakes, for instance) where we never did before. What were the forces that made that happen?”

His favorite food trend right now is the artisan bread movement.

“Bread just keeps getting better, in the most simple and wonderful way,” Sax said. “Life’s too short for bad bread.”

Catarina Passidomo, assistant professor of Southern studies and anthropology, said she has heard several interviews on various food-related podcasts with Sax, and finds his perspective on food trends to be provocative and accurate.

“In an era of quinoa puffs, cronuts and with the rise and fall of kale, David Sax provides innovative insight into why some food trends fly and others flop,” Passidomo said. “I’m very much looking forward to his talk and would encourage anyone who eats, or thinks about eating, to attend as well.”

Sax is also the author of “Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen,” and has been recognized with a James Beard Award, IACP award and other accolades. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, TheNewYorker.com and The New York Times. His third book, “The Revenge of Analog: Dispatches from the Post-Digital Economy,” will be published this November.

In addition to his lecture, Sax will meet with two Writing and Rhetoric classes.

Sax’s visit is sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance and the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric. Each year, they work together to bring award-winning journalists to campus to speak to students, faculty and staff. For more information, visit http://www.southernfoodways.com.