Poetry, Art, and Books will be the bill of fare for the weekend of February 6-7. Throughout the weekend, Downtown Hattiesburg will be filled with poetry readings, book signings, and art showings. All are free and open to the public.
On Friday, February 6, the Hattiesburg Arts Council will sponsor Poetry Out Loud'sSouthern Regional Competition at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center. Poetry Out Loud encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. Friday's competition will begin at noon. Participating high schools include Biloxi, Brookhaven, Meridian, Mize, Mississippi School for the Arts, Ocean Springs, Natchez, and WINGS Homeschool. Ken Bolinsky, State Coordinator for Mississippi Poetry Out Loud, reported that our state has gained a national reputation for excellence in the competition. “In fact, we are described as a ‘model program' by the National Endowment for the Arts,” Bolinsky said.
On Saturday, February 7, from 3-5pm, the City of Hattiesburg, Hattiesburg Arts Council, Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art will host a reception and exhibit of the area's new Little Free Librariesas well as the small sculptures of folk artist Sylvia Moore. Moore, of Edwards, has been employed for the past 14 years as a custodian at Bolton-Edwards Middle School. She was inspired to construct the houses in 2012 after observing lessons in a Career Discovery Class, and her first creation was a log cabin made from Popsicle sticks. Several of her unique and creative sculptural habitats, all constructed with found objects, are permanently displayed at the elementary and middle schools in Bolton.
The Little Free Libraryexhibit, Take a Look/Find a Book, includes approximately 20 little library sculptures created by local artists, architects, contractors, city employees,businesses, book clubs, neighborhood associations, and children. Visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to bring a book to donate to the cause, since all the libraries will be stocked and permanently installed at approved locations throughout town. “We've been thrilled with the response to this arts and literacy initiative,” said Rebekah Stark Johnson, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Arts Council. “It's been a terrific vehicle for building community, promoting art and also the love of reading.”
Becky Montague, president of the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art agreed. “Rebekah and I knew right away that we wanted to collaborate on the library sculptures, but we had no idea how much they would resonate with others. It turns out that they're a great complement to Mayor DuPree's School Readiness by 5initiative, as well as the public library's 1,000 Books program, which encourages parents to read 1,000 books to their children before they begin kindergarten.” The City of Hattiesburg Traffic and Construction Division are building the first five libraries to be installed at area parks with DuPree agreeing to purchase the first set of books for each location.
Johnson explained that the little libraries will be on exhibit from February 4-12, and field trips to the exhibit are available with a reservation, “Once they're installed at community centers, neighborhoods, and businesses, anyone can take a book home to read and return it to any of the little libraries in town.”
Following the Take a Look/Find a Book Exhibit, from 4-6 pm at Oddfellows Gallery, the deGrummond Children's Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi will feature, 60-plus original watercolor and mixed media works of Rosemary Wells, the award-winning children's book author/ illustrator whose unforgettable characters include Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko. Wells will be in attendance and available for book signing, and selected pieces of her artwork as well as her books will be available for purchase. Ellen Ruffin, curator of the deGrummond Collection, encourages parents to take their children to the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal & Forrest County beforehand, from 2-3 pm, for the showing of Max & Ruby films.
The Hattiesburg Tourism Commission will provide trolley service between the Cultural Center and Oddfellows Gallery for those interested in attending both exhibits on Saturday afternoon.
All events are a collaborative effort of the Hattiesburg Arts Council, Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art, Library of Hattiesburg, Petal & Forrest County, USM's deGrummond Children's Literature Collection, Hattiesburg Tourism Commission, and City of Hattiesburg.