June 20, 2024
Artists

Mississippi artists honored at weekend event


Mississippi artists in a variety of disciplines were honored over the weekend during the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters’ 45th annual awards gala in the grand hall of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

The artists also were celebrated at events around Jackson, including an art reception at Fischer Galleries in Ridgeland and readings by honored authors at Lemuria Books in Banner Hall.

The 2024 MIAL Awards recipients are:

Curtis Wilkie

Journalist, author and professor Curtis Wilkie received the MIAL’s Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award for his body of work over a decades-long career.

Wilkie, a Greenville native, spent his childhood in several towns in the state, including Summit. Despite growing up in a segregated society, he realized that the South’s customs were unjust. Wilkie’s opinions were confirmed during his last semester as a student at the University of Mississippi, during which time he witnessed the 1962 riot on campus in reaction to the integration by James Meredith, which also was the 100th anniversary of the South’s defeat at Shiloh.

A few months later, Wilkie began his reporting career at the Clarksdale Press Register. The Delta town was a center of civil rights activity, where Wilkie covered events like Freedom Summer in 1964, Robert F. Kennedy’s tour of the area in 1967 and an interview with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. two weeks before the civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

Wilkie later moved to Washington, D.C., on a congressional fellowship from the American Political Science Association, followed by a stint as a reporter and editor for the News-Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.

He joined the staff of the Boston Globe as a national and foreign correspondent in 1975, covering presidential campaigns and the Middle East, from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon through the First Gulf War. In 1993, he created the Globe’s Southern bureau in New Orleans, reporting on regional and national politics and writing stories about the changing South.

After his retirement from the Boston Globe in 2001, Wilkie joined the journalism faculty at the University of Mississippi until he retired in 2020.

Wilkie is the author of four books: “Dixie: A Personal Odyssey through Events That Shaped the Modern South,” “The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer,” “Assassins, Eccentrics, Politicians, and Other Persons of Interest: Fifty Pieces from the Road” and “When Evil Lived in Laurel: The White Knights and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer.”

With Jim McDougall he coauthored “Arkansas Mischief: The Birth of a National Scandal.” “City Adrift: New Orleans before and after Katrina” was written with six other journalists, and “The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-year Campaign” was coauthored with Thomas Oliphant.

Stephen Coleman

Longtime University of Southern Mississippi professor and photojournalist Stephen Coleman received a Special Achievement Award for his commitment to the arts through his photos and volunteering at various arts organizations.

Coleman’s award-winning photographs hang in galleries and private collections throughout the U.S. and abroad. Coleman has documented hundreds of historic events, including the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the 1987 Winter International Special Olympics, the Hurricane Hunters through the Eye of Hurricane Kate and many others including Super Bowl games, presidential campaign trails and Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States.

He also created an amateur photo contest with the Hattiesburg Arts Council to give budding photographers a creative outlet and a way to receive recognition for their work. These contests are judged each year by professional photographers. Coleman has spent countless hours helping amateur photographers improve their skills through the Camaraderie Photography Club and other organizations.

Coleman was awarded a Mississippi Arts Commission Fellowship Grant to help him continue his documentary work in the Pine Belt.

Jesmyn Ward

The Fiction Award went to Jesmyn Ward for her book, “Let Us Descend.”

The DeLisle native earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan.

She was the John and Renee Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi in 2010-11 and is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Tulane University, where she teaches creative writing.

In addition to “Let Us Descend,” her fourth novel, Ward wrote “Where the Line Bleeds,” “Salvage the Bones,” which earned her the 2011 National Book Award, and “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” for which she won another National Book Award in 2017. She also has written several nonfiction and poetry books.

Charles Reagan Wilson

The Nonfiction Award went to Charles Reagan Wilson for his book “The Southern Way of Life: Meanings of Culture and Civilization in the American South.”

Wilson, an El Paso native, earned degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is professor emeritus of history and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, where he taught from 1981 to 2014.

Wilson is the author of “Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920,” “Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis,” “Flashes of Southern Spirit: Meanings of the Spirit in the U.S. South” and “The Southern Way of Life: Meanings of Culture and Civilization in the American South.” Wilson and William Ferris co-edited the original “Encyclopedia of Southern Culture,” was general editor of the “New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture” and contributed to the “Mississippi Encyclopedia.”

Lee Durkee

The Life Writing Award went to Lee Durkee for “Stalking Shakespeare: A Memoir of Madness, Murder, and My Search for the Poet Beneath the Paint.”

Durkee, who lives in Taylor, attended schools in Hattiesburg, including Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi.

He is author of “Rides of the Midway” and “The Last Taxi Driver,” which was named a Book of the Year in the U.S., France and Ireland.

Durkee’s stories and essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine and other notable publications.

A.H. Jerriod Avant

The award for Poetry went to A.H. Jerriod Avant for his first book of poems, “Muscadine.”

Avant is a native of Longtown. He is a Jackson State University graduate and earned Master of Fine Arts degrees from Spalding and New York universities. Avant earned his PhD in English from the University of Rhode Island in 2023.

His work has appeared in a number of publications, including the Boston Review, Pinwheel, Callaloo, Virginia Quarterly Review, Obsidian and The Yale Review. 

Avant was a teaching fellow at Wesleyan University and will be the 2024-25 John and Renee Grisham writer in residence at the University of Mississippi.

Angie Thomas

The Youth Literature went to Jackson native Angie Thomas for her book, “Nic Blake and the Remarkables.”

Thomas, who currently lives in Atlanta, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Belhaven University.

Her debut novel, “The Hate U Give,” started as a senior project in college. The book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list. The book was adapted to film by Fox 2000. the movie featured Amandla Stenberg and was directed by George Tillman Jr. Her second novel, “On the Come Up,” also made No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The film version of the book is currently in production, with Thomas working as a producer.

Her other works include “Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Truth,” and “Concrete Rose,” a prequel to “The Hate U Give” and Thomas’ third No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Kate Medley

The Photography Award was presented to Kate Medley for her debut book, “Thank You, Please Come Again.”

Medley is a Durham, North Carolina-based visual journalist documenting the American South. Her work focuses on storytelling and environmental portraiture and often explores issues of social justice and the shifting politics of the region.

Medley’s roots are in Mississippi, where she has investigated civil rights-era cold cases, covered the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina and chased down hot tamales and Koolicles in the Mississippi Delta.

She is a freelance journalist who covers national news for multiple publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Steve Rouse

The Classical Music Composition Award went to Steve Rouse for his “Flute Sonata.”

Rouse, a Moss Point native, has received the Rome Prize, a Meet the Composer residency, a NEA Composition Fellowship, two awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, three major artist fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council and six previous Composer of the Year awards from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.

He completed his Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Michigan and taught at the University of Louisville School of Music from 1988 to 2021.

Tim and Susan Bauer Lee (Bark)

The Contemporary Music Composition went to BARK, featuring Mississippi natives Tim and Susan Bauer Lee.

Bark was formed in 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee, by the Lees, whose music is described as “somewhere between garage rock, punk rock, power pop and hill country blues.”

Since forming, the group has performed at a few hundred shows and produced several albums, including the most recent, “Loud,” and an EP. They also penned a memoir before moving back to Mississippi, where they are continuing their musical career.

Jennifer Drinkwater

The Visual Arts Award was presented to Jennifer Drinkwater for “The What’s Good Project.”

Drinkwater is a Mississippi native, an artist, an associate professor of art and visual culture, and the community arts specialist for extension and outreach at Iowa State University.

She has worked on a number of community-based projects, including painting murals with middle school students on a blues club in the Mississippi Delta and in Perry, Iowa. She has written free toolkits about the projects.

Drinkwater currently lives with her husband and dog in Ames, Iowa.

Jennifer Torres

Metal sculpture artist and professor Jennifer Torres was commissioned by MIAL to create the individual awards for the event.

Torres is a professor of art and design at the University of Southern Mississippi. She was the 2022 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award winner.

She began her studio training at the Art Students League in New York City. She went on to earn a bachelor’s of fine arts degree at the Cooper Union and a master’s of fine arts degree in sculpture from the University of Georgia in Athens. She has worked in steel fabrication, casting, woodworking and photography, and trained as a cabinetmaker in New England.

She has received numerous awards, including a 2020 Mississippi Visual Arts Fellowship and Creative Researcher of the Year at USM’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Do you have a story to share? Contact Lici Beveridge at lbeveridge@gannett.com. Follow her on X  @licibev or Facebook at facebook.com/licibeveridge. 





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